Exclusive Q&A: Westlake Urban's Gaye Quinn On San Leandro's Transformation
Westlake Urban managing director Gaye Quinn spoke to Bisnow about working with San Leandro to build a high-tech office campus.
Gaye brings a unique set of experiences to her role, in which she’s responsible for execution of the company’s vision. That involves skill in a variety of fields, including governmental entitlements, strategic planning, site evaluation and project feasibility analyses. Gaye has taken ideas to tangible product across several million square feet in her career. Before her 14-year tenure in the private sector, she served as a planning director in San Mateo, San Leandro and Emeryville.
Bisnow: Why San Leandro? How did the city help you realize your vision?
Gaye Quinn: The city’s transformation is rooted in a smart-growth strategy based on creating a welcoming community with the desirable qualities that employers want and need today—access to transit, a central Bay Area location, walkable neighborhoods and the fastest internet speeds available. The city approved a transit-oriented development strategy in 2007 that provided the policy framework for SLTC (San Leandro Tech Campus). They were committed to the strategy, and they worked hard to stick with it during the recession. Now evidence of their wisdom and tenacity is the transformation you see taking place today.
Bisnow: What is the most compelling aspect of the San Leandro Tech Campus?
Gaye Quinn: SLTC has many compelling characteristics, including easy access to transit; a LEED Gold, five-building campus; smart windows; and proximity to shops and restaurants in Downtown San Leandro. The story of SLTC is also part of a much bigger story about San Leandro’s transformation from a 20th century industrial manufacturing powerhouse to a 21st century center of innovation and technology with the fastest internet speeds in the country.
But in my opinion, the most compelling aspect of SLTC is Truth is Beauty, Marco Cochrane’s 55-foot-tall steel sculpture of a woman who is safe and powerful. Truth is Beauty will grace SLTC’s outdoor plaza—a public space that faces the Downtown San Leandro BART station. The base of the sculpture will be encircled by a 30-foot diameter, flat, concrete band with stainless steel lettering. The words etched into that band will pose the question, “What would the world be like if women were safe?”
Bisnow: What kinds of tenants are you hoping to attract?
Gaye Quinn: Our hope is to attract technology companies that share our commitment to creating a unique workplace for employees, getting behind Truth is Beauty’s message of safety for women, engaging with the local community and helping to write the next chapter of San Leandro’s transformation.
Bisnow: What design innovations does SLTC incorporate?
Gaye Quinn: SLTC is truly state-of-the-art with Neolith cladding; energy-efficient operational technologies including smart windows, utility services and HVAC systems; remote monitoring and control; improved security systems; and responsive lighting. These systems will allow tenants to reduce overhead costs with offices that leverage technology, telecommuting and design to provide maximum flexibility for the space. SLTC is also rich with amenities, such as on-site security, secure parking and bike parking, and excellent views of San Francisco, Oakland and San Leandro.
Bisnow: Tell us more about the fiber optic project and why it is so important.
Gaye Quinn: San Leandro’s city leaders anticipated the needs of the new economy and understood that high-speed broadband technology is as important today as plumbing. The city partnered with OSIsoft founder Dr. J. Patrick Kennedy to modernize the city’s communications infrastructure through a public-private partnership called Lit San Leandro, a fiber optic loop that offers the fastest broadband speeds in the country.
Unbelievably, the US ranks just 31st in the world in terms of average download speeds due to outdated copper wires that weren’t designed to carry massive amounts of data. San Leandro’s fiber optic loop provides our tenants with an incredible competitive advantage.
Bisnow: What was the financing environment like? Any hiccups?
Gaye Quinn: We had a fully leased Phase 1 building, and as a result financing was relatively easy compared to other projects.