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555 City Center, Oakland

ADDRESS: 555 12th St., Downtown Oakland

DEVELOPER: The Shorenstein Co., San Francisco
ARCHITECT: Korth Sunseri Hagey Architects, San Francisco
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Charles Pankow Builders, Oakland
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Guzzardo & Associates Inc., San Francisco
AREA: 487,224 rentable sq. ft.
FLOORS: 20 stories - one floor of retail space (19,000 sq. ft.) and 19 floors of Class A office space (468,000 sq. ft.)
PARKING: Approximately 240 spaces on two levels of underground parking

First Private Office Building in a Decade Opens in Oakland

555 City Center adds 468,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space to downtown market

By Eric Althoff


The $75 million 555 City Center, Oakland's first new private office building in a decade, is a contemporary sculptural form rising from a building base.


Ted Korth, principal and project designer of San Francisco-based Korth Sunseri Hagey Architects, said the building's design "presents appropriate edges to the surrounding street. The design evolved from the desire to create an exciting new form on the Oakland skyline while respecting the scale and architecture of the surrounding buildings."


The new structure is an addition to Oakland's City Center, which is located above the 12th Street BART station five blocks from I-880 and acts as a prime component in commercial and government activity in the downtown area with more than two million sq. ft. of office space, restaurants and retail.


Even with all that space, Shorenstein Company of San Francisco, developer of 555 City Center, saw more room for improvement.


"It is a new millennium pioneer for development in Oakland," said Jim Christian, Shorenstein director of investment management. "The project offers Bay Area businesses Class A space that is cost-effective, and it has an attractive work force profile because of convenience and access to BART and major freeways."

The 20-story-tall building was completed last month. It includes 468,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space and 19,000 sq. ft. of retail.  The developer wanted to create an addition to City Center that was seamless with its surroundings, and so Korth opted for a warm color palette and glass types compatible with 555's neighbors.

"The new building is expressed in a very contemporary way yet the fundamental architecture expression of base, middle and top is incorporated into the design," Korth added.

Street-level storefronts on Clay Street also take into account the area's older building designs.  "An important design objective for the 555 City Center was to create a building base that would be an open and welcoming extension of the existing Clay Street pedestrian corridor," said Paul Dumond, development director with Shorenstein.

To accomplish this, Korth's design provides a base that meets the sidewalks along Clay Street, 11th Street and Jefferson Street while attracting pedestrian traffic on the north side along 12th Street.

"This base incorporates glazed storefronts which recall the scale and rhythm of the older traditional storefront systems found in the area," Korth said. He added that delicate glass canopies, textured wall panels, custom wall sconces and a granite base will provide the detailing needed to match the nearby buildings.

The entire top of the building was conceptualized as an expansive curved lantern that will glow on the Oakland skyline in the evenings. Korth said that a specialized glazing system and custom lighting have been installed to achieve this concept, which "eclipses the scale of any exterior building lighting in the Bay Area."

Lighting fixtures at the base of the building and the landscaped plaza include uplit glass canopies and indirect lighting fixtures, which reference and echo the major lighting statement at the top of the structure.

The project's glass-enclosed base presented a challenging, yet unique, design point. Korth said the lobby was conceived as a transparent glass volume that penetrates the base of the building and extends on to the Entry Plaza located along the length of 12th Street.

"The glass system enclosing the lobby volume is supported by narrow profile stainless steel supports to achieve the greatest transparency possible," he said. The indoor/outdoor nature of the space strongly links the outdoor landscaped plaza to the interior volume of the lobby. Korth added that a bamboo grove is planted at the center of the glass lobby to further promote the indoor/outdoor concept for the space."

Dave Eichten, project manager for the Oakland office of general contractor Charles Pankow Builders, said developing locations for fire-alarm devices, HVAC diffusers and sprinklers was a problem with the glass-enclosed base. But he added that the project was design-build for architectural, structural, as well as MEP trades, and some elements of work required eccentric collaborative design work.

"The built-up penthouse mechanical fan rooms have been quite a challenge," Eichten said. "The walls are designed to withstand a worst-case loading of 50 psf. The design of this space required proactive design-build solutions to construct in this difficult space."

Shorenstein was impressed with Pankow's ingenuity when it came time for the concrete mat pour, the largest one of its kind in years.  "Over 650 truckloads of concrete - 24 million lbs. - rolled into downtown Oakland to lay the foundation in the wee hours of a Saturday morning," Dumond said. He said a fleet of trucks made nonstop deliveries for 12 hours.  "Pankow Builders devised a unique method for pumping concrete up into the building's structural columns, a major feat on a project of any size," Dumond added.
Korth said the building's interior provides clean, efficient and flexible office space for the end user. "The expansive curved facades, which extend across the north and south edges of the building, will offer fantastic views of the Bay Area," he added.

In addition to the use of "clean" office space, Dumond said that 555 City Center will be the first high-rise in the Bay Area to be fitted with a dual-plumbing system to utilize recycled water for flushing its toilets and for other nonpotable uses.

"The 'purple-pipe' system will eventually connect to EBMUD's Bayshore Recycled Water Project," Dumond said. "The goal of this undertaking is to deliver 2.3 million gallons of recycled water per day to businesses in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda and Albany, thereby saving enough drinking water to serve more than 15,000 homes."

Korth said the building's elegant proportions, clean detailing, high-quality materials and a sensitivity to the surrounding context will create a timeless addition to downtown Oakland. The warm limestone-colored cast concrete references the surrounding golden hillsides in the warmer months, and the blue-green glass recalls the colors of trees in forested areas visible from the site as well as the colors and fluid characteristics of San Francisco Bay.
"The expansive use of glass on the building will provide a constantly changing building as the clouds move across the sky and light levels transform during the day," he said.

Dumond said the opening of the building will expand the range of office and retail opportunities to tenants in the Oakland City Center submarket and contribute to the revitalization and growth of downtown. He added, "This, in turn, will also create new jobs and business opportunities in the downtown area of Oakland."

-------California Construction Link May 2002, page 16

BauGrid® Construction Systems are proprietary products of BauTech®, Inc. and are covered by one or more of the following U.S. Patents  5,218,809 and 5,392,580., and other Foreign Patents.  BauTech® and BauGrid® are registered trademarks, approved by and registered with the US Patent Office.  Trademarks for BauGrid® Welded Reinforcement Grids, BauGrid® WRG, WRG and Welded Reinforcement Grids are pending.  Approvals include ICC-ES Evaluation Report  No. ER-5192, City of Los Angeles Research Report No. 25438

This page was last edited on 07/01/08  Copyright BauTech, Inc., 2004 - 2008.  All rights reserved

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