Sears Building May House Tech Workers

Industry spillover from San Francisco and elsewhere is spreading into Oakland’s Downtown and Uptown neighborhoods.


Schematic courtesy of Lane Partners

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You moved to Oakland for the housing prices, and you stayed for the arts scene and Donut Savant. Wouldn’t it be great if you could spend weekdays on this side of the Bay, too?

More tech workers are living that dream as industry spillover washes up on Oakland shores as relentlessly as mystery chemical goo. And tech’s footprint here could grow several sizes overnight if Silicon Valley property manager Lane Partners lures in a major tech firm with its $48 million renovation of the Sears building. Lane Partners principal Andrew Haydel would not name companies that have walked through the building, which by summer 2016 should feature 350,000 square feet of light-drenched “creative office space,” (read: exposed brick, polished concrete) but would only say, “We’ve had groups local, groups from San Francisco; household names, companies I had not heard of previously.” Lane Partners, landlord to Apple, Evernote, and other tech firms, is looking to lease most of the building to “a large single tenant.”

Last year Oakland overtook Austin in the ranks of cities attracting the most venture capital, rising to No. 7 from No. 13, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Not all of the $1.185 billion invested here went to tech firms, but you can bet your calorie-monitoring wristband that plenty did.

It’s a tide that hometown venture capitalist Erik Moore expects to keep on rising.

Soon enough tech companies in Oakland will be so common they won’t be fodder for conversation, said Moore, founder of Base Ventures, adding, “There are a lot of companies that are relocating to Oakland, and employees at larger San Francisco companies are moving over to Oakland. There’s more sun, culture, a lot to do—and once they come over, it’s not as scary as most people think.”

Sean Daniel Murphy is another Oaklander who believes it’s not just cheaper office space that is drawing entrepreneurs. “Oakland is one of the most creative hubs in terms of the expression of art and innovation and entrepreneurship. Ultimately that’s going to be the greatest asset that pulls tech to Oakland,” said Murphy, president of Fund Good Jobs, a nonprofit that funnels capital into local companies.

Nurturing the tech expansion are organizations focused on equitable opportunity growth, such as the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which is renovating a 1923 building on Broadway to hold 45,000 square feet of offices for its headquarters and tenants.

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