Going Green

You might be surprised about which homes in the East Bay are actually the greenest.


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Photo Courtesy of Signature DEvelopment Group's Mason at the Hive


Heading Downtown

"Living close to the core” is the new “location, location, location.” Increasingly, today’s urbanite is eschewing the suburban-sprawl model for a forward-thinking, sustainable ideal. More likely to ride a bike than own a car, downtown dwellers are redefining the meaning of “home” and increasingly relying upon communal and collaborative environments to complement their personal living space.

High-density, urban-center living is inherently more eco-friendly than single-family homes. And Oakland routinely ranks as one of the country’s greenest cities, with its proximity to numerous transportation modalities, high walkability scores, and overall feel-good grooviness.

Oakland is also in the midst of a historic housing boom: Currently, there are thousands of apartments and condos under construction or awaiting permits in the downtown and Uptown areas. When built, these eco-housing projects will help the region achieve its climate-change goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. Plus, developers have proposed thousands more new housing units for Oakland’s downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods, including several high-rise towers. In early March, the Oakland City Council approved the Temescal district’s first-ever housing high-rise: a 24-story, 402 unit housing tower to be built next to the MacArthur BART station.

Signature Development Group’s Mason at the Hive is among the first of the new wave of downtown and Uptown green-living housing projects. Just a few blocks from the 19th BART station and steps from burgeoning businesses, Signature created a new urban village out of a blight of boarded-up car dealerships.

The developer repurposed the neglected yet beautifully architected early-20th-century brick-and-beam buildings along Valley and 23rd streets in Uptown to add green cred to the project. Instead of embarking on new construction, Signature kept the building’s deco-era facades, augmented with modern architecture, to create apartment homes for a variety of residents and lifestyles.

Signature also has plans to add solar to the Hive soon, rounding out the eco-minded amenities that included energy-sipping LED lighting, high-efficiency appliances, low-flow plumbing, front-door trash pickup, and composting.

Photo Courtesy of Signaure Development Group's Mason At the Hive

Embracing an eco-conscious, low-impact lifestyle doesn’t mean living like a Spartan. The Hive’s 105 apartments range from spacious, 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath, loft-like dwellings to efficient, well-appointed studio apartments at just under 500 square feet. The more diminutive dwellings provide occupants a sense of expanse through 10-foot ceilings, lots of natural light, and outdoor access. All but two of Hive’s units have an outdoor patio. All are nonsmoking units.

More than just a place to lay your head, the Hive sponsors monthly mixers, art shows, and music events as part of an ongoing mission to grow and celebrate a culturally diverse community with a distinctive sense of place. Thus, the Hive is a prototype for future Earth-friendly urban enclaves.

 “Our vision was to create a less-insular environment for our residents, where ‘concierge’ amenities, like a fitness center, barbershop, or places to shop are all part of an ‘exoskeleton’ of businesses surrounding the development,” said Paul Nieto, Signature’s executive vice president. “The Hive addresses the housing demands of an engaged urban populace who enjoy and take advantage of a vibrant city just outside their doorstep.”

This unique micro-neighborhood is abuzz with creative and collaborative energy. So much so, Signature moved its headquarters to the Hive in 2014 to share the block with other like-minded tenants including Numi Organic Tea, Drake’s Brewery, Impact Hub, Calavera restaurant, and Flynn Architecture.

 “The Hive became the nucleus for a variety of incubator businesses that cater to a unique community,’ added Nieto. “Together, we are change agents in Oakland’s sustainable urban renaissance.”

Ramona d’Viola


Published online on April 26, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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