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How The Loma Prieta Earthquake Transformed Emeryville

Oakland Other
Emeryville Amtrak station

One of the East Bay’s largest transit hubs was kick-started by the Loma Prieta earthquake. After the shaking stopped, Oakland’s 16th Street Amtrak station sustained significant damage and it was clear an alternative was needed in the East Bay, according to Wareham Development founder and President Rich Robbins.

In 1989, Wareham Development was already one of the largest investors in Richmond, Berkeley and Emeryville, having completed its first commercial project more than a decade earlier. Wareham sustained only minor damage to most of its buildings during the Loma Prieta earthquake, but one of Wareham's buildings was damaged to such an extent that tenants had to be relocated. While the earthquake created immediate challenges for the firm, it also prompted a long-time partnership.

Soon after the earthquake, Wareham was invited by Emeryville City Manager John Flores to attend a meeting with Amtrak and Capital Corridor officials and the idea of a transit hub was born.

Wareham Development founder and President Rich Robbins

Wareham provided the site, a plan and the financing to build what is now one of the busiest stations in California. It was the prototype of a public-private partnership, working in lockstep with Emeryville to create both taxable and nontaxable bonds for the cleanup and the infrastructure surrounding the station.

This, following the founding of the Emery-Go-Round free shuttle, another public-private partnership with the city, created one of the fastest-growing transit intra- and intermodal hubs in the Bay Area.

“We built the station as the anchor, but the vision we had in 1989 for a transit hub in Emeryville is still alive and well and is in many ways an ongoing project,” Robbins said.

The firm is expanding the public transportation hub in Emeryville with a new bus terminal that will open next year as part of its EmeryStation West Transit Center development at 5959 Horton. The buses will be linked to the new Transbay Terminal.