Some of us might still remember the tragedy of December 2nd, 2016 when a fire in the warehouse then known as Ghost Ship in a block of Fruitvale, Oakland took the lives of 36 people during a concert featuring artists from the house music record label 100% Silk. What a lot of people may not know is that this location once carried a bigger plan. Investors and city planners called it “Opportunity Site B.”
The 0.7-acre parcel is currently made up of the fire-ravaged ware house and two single-story buildings that house an auto repair garage, a mobile phone store, a clothing store, and a small gallery. According to the initial 2014 plans, the property can accommodate 31 housing units above 9,000 square feet of retail space. The multi-story structure would have secured parking and a small outdoor recreational space for residents. The plan, though mostly theoretical, shows that although many properties along that boulevard seem forgotten, in reality they are very much on the radar of city planners and developers.
“That area is being transformed,” said Chris Foley, a principal with Polaris Pacific, a brokerage that sells land and condo units throughout the Bay Area. “The city of Oakland is incredibly supportive of housing, and any land near a BART (the local metro) stop is going to be a big focus for all developers, especially if it can support more affordable workforce housing.”
There is some worry that if the original housing project gets implemented, many of the current residents around the parcel will find themselves forced to move out due to increased cost of living in the area. A $178 million, 9.5-mile bus rapid transit line is currently under construction, and is going to connect San Leandro to downtown Oakland, which will make the location much more attractive to higher-paying Oakland residents.
Currently, there is little under construction in the Fruitvale neighborhood. Developer John Protopappas is building two projects — 41 units at 3014 Chapman St., known as the P.E. Gallot Building; and 63 lofts and apartments at 2985 Ford St. Both are on the other side of Interstate 880, in a part of Fruitvale known as Jingletown.
When it comes to development, the stretch of International Boulevard closest to Fruitvale BART is a study in contrast. To the south is a bustling Latino shopping district, a lively strip of clothing stores, fruit and vegetable stands, gift shops, bakeries, shoe outlets and restaurants. To the north there are numerous larger industrial properties, many of which are vacant. Entire blocks are taken up by single-story fast-food restaurants with multiple vast surface parking lots empty.
City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the area and lives nearby, said he expects that a housing developer will eventually snap up the Ghost Ship block.