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As Jobs Grow And Traffic Slows, East Bay Cities Focus On TODs

Woodstock Development President Kirk Syme is working on one of the largest continuous transit-oriented developments in the East Bay, but he isn’t fazed by the daunting task. TODs are the developer’s life blood right now, and the company is working to meet a critical demand from users wanting to be closer to transit. 

Rendering of one of the buildings planned for Woodstock Properties' Union City office development

“We’re very focused on transit-oriented projects right now,” Syme said. “We’re not even considering ones that aren’t transit-oriented.”

Woodstock Development has built TODs in downtown Redwood City and downtown San Mateo. It is in the process of building a 1.2M SF transit-oriented office campus that will be across from more than 1,000 multifamily units, 243 of which were completed in September at Windflower Properties’ Union Flats. The office project, Union 1.2, designed by DES Architects + Engineers, is part of the city’s master-planned Station District, which will also include a mega-region rail hub that will connect BART to ACE and Capital Corridor trains.

Union City isn’t alone in its trek toward becoming a more transit-oriented community. As job growth continues to increase traffic congestion and demand for office and housing, cities across the East Bay have been grappling with ways to meet demand and take cars off the roadways.

Multifamily, office and mixed-use development in Union City and along the Interstate 880 corridor will be discussed during Bisnow’s East Bay 880 Corridor event Aug. 14.

Hayward, Alameda and San Leandro have all been pushing for more housing, jobs and development in the last few years. Developers broke ground on Alameda Point Site A earlier this year. The redevelopment will create housing, office and a new ferry terminal. Westlake Urban is creating a transit-oriented community with office and apartments in San Leandro. About 500 units of housing were recently proposed next to the South Hayward BART station.

“The I-880 corridor is a crucial asset for the movement of goods and people in the Bay Area,” East Bay Development Alliance Executive Director Darien Louie said. 

The East Bay is one of the few regions in the Bay Area that provides manufacturing, industrial and warehouse land uses that generate jobs, she said.

“While housing is a crucial issue in our region, it is important to balance residential and production land uses so employees can live close to their place of work,” Louie said. “If only housing is built along the corridor, it will to add to congestion, especially during commute hours.”

Millennials Driving The TOD Trend

Woodstock Development President Kirk Syme

Millennials wanting to be close to transit or work are increasing demand for TODs along the 880 corridor. Younger millennials prefer the dense, multi-story TOD housing developments, Louie said.

Older millennials wanting to start families are moving to Danville, Dublin and Pleasanton, but want access to jobs along transit corridors, Syme said.

“Grown-up millennials are less and less interested in sitting in traffic and more interested in getting to work,” Syme said.

Syme said tenants at TODs benefit by getting to work faster and easier. These districts also tend to have smaller parking requirements, which means the development could be cheaper to build, and often allow for more vertical buildings, he said.

Union City is becoming a market that can offer both housing and jobs along several major modes of transit. It is one of the closest markets to the Peninsula, close to the Tri-Valley and about 30 minutes from San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland, Syme said.

“We can provide a location for somebody who wants to tap into that residential or that location base connected to BART,” Syme said.

Union City also is attractive to developers since the land prices have been less expensive than Menlo Park and Palo Alto, he said. Woodstock also won’t need to build roads and infrastructure at the Station District, which used to be a PG&E pipe yard, since it has already been built up and the pads are ready for construction, Syme said.

For Union 1.2, Woodstock will work closely with any future tenants to design the building to their specifications. The buildings could range from six to eight stories, but could go higher, Syme said. Most of the plans have already been reviewed by the city and any design changes would need city approval, he said.

The buildings can accommodate different uses, with one building designed with 17-foot ceiling heights to accommodate R&D and biotech uses. Amenities include a 40K SF fitness center, roof deck and zen garden, art walls and private patios and access to outdoor fitness facilities.

The Future Of Union City and The I-880 Corridor

East Bay Development Alliance Executive Director Darien Louie during a Golden State Warriors season ticket fan day

As more cities and developers turn toward TODs, the 880 corridor will look very different in five to 10 years. It will be built up with multistory housing in planned communities that will include entertainment, restaurants and walkable worksites, Louie said.

Bike paths and pedestrian infrastructure will be improved to allow better access from housing to offices and public transit hubs, Louie said. Multistory offices will rise up along the corridor, but warehouse companies with large square footage needs will struggle to thrive due to low inventory of available space, she said.

The demographics also will shift along the TOD hubs to a younger, childless population with households occupied by well-paid professionals or workers who can meet area median housing costs.

For Union City, the next decade or so will bring an intermodal transit hub and the potential to connect to a train that travels across the bay by the Dumbarton Bridge. Connecting tenants from east to west, not just north and south, is the key, Syme said.

Woodstock owns a four-building, 325K SF Class-A office and R&D project in Union City that is fully leased by four tenants. He said as smaller R&D buildings have disappeared along the peninsula, many companies have turned to Union City, which is the closest city on the 880 with easy access to the peninsula via the Dumbarton Bridge.

“These buildings were the closest that they could find and turned out that nice reverse commute from the communities up and down the peninsula,” Syme said.

Here more from Syme, Louie and other experts about the 880 Corridor at Bisnow’s East Bay 880 Corridor Update Aug. 14 in Oakland.