Behind the Project: Emerald Fund's Hot Affordable Housing On The Bay
When the Emerald Fund started selling the newly renovated The Shores at Marina Bay this summer, the hungry housing market snatched them up at a pace that hit a sale a day in the early weeks. Now, as the firm gears up to launch the next phase of condo sales, we chatted with Emerald Fund chairman Oz Erickson about what makes this project so special.
That's Oz on a recent vacation to Ravello on Italy's Amalfi Coast (an area he says reminds him of the green, secluded, village-like nature of The Shores at Marina Bay, though he lists The Shores' advantages: no mountains; better English; closer to San Francisco).
The Shores at Marina Bay condos were built in the 1980s. When Emerald Fund bought the Richmond property in 2004 (for a reported $160M with then-partner Lennar Corp), the idea was to start selling the homes as condos, but the recession put a damper on those plans, Oz tells us.
Lennar stepped out of the project in 2008, with Kennedy Wilson reportedly buying a majority interest that year. The homes were rented when they weren't selling well in the down economy.
Then, last July, the timing seemed right to try sales again—sales Oz called fantastically successful. The reason, he says, is that the Shores is meeting an affordable housing niche (prices range from $250k to $450k). That first phase led to 140 sales in what Oz believes was the fastest-selling project in the East Bay. Polaris Pacific, which is handling sales and marketing, says it’s one of the fastest sellers ever, and still on a record pace.
Emerald Fund was lucky to have good construction to start with and made major improvements in each of the 478 units, which range from one to two bedrooms, Oz tells us. The units were built with high ceilings that would be cost-prohibitive to build today with washer/dryer hookups in each unit. The remodeling put in new kitchens and new baths, plus a lot of upgrading and updating common areas. Oz tells us it was a significant investment, but the end result is highly desirable condos in a neighborhood he loves.
Oz talks about the natural beauty of the Marina Bay area where the community sits, surrounded by trails along the waterfront and parklands. When he lived in Berkeley, Oz and his wife would go to the area to walk the waterfront and eat at Salute e Vita Ristorante.
Emerald Fund is preparing for its next phase of sales for the remaining 193 units. Oz anticipates the area will only grow in popularity, especially once UC Berkeley finishes construction on the planned 134-acre, 5.5M SF Berkeley Global Campus nearby. Right now, the mix tends to be first-time buyers and empty nesters, about a third of whom commute to San Francisco for work.
With growing company interest in finding East Bay office space and the addition of the UC Berkeley campus, that could change in the coming years. Oz tells us the complex will likely appeal to academics, students and other members of the UC-Berkeley community.