General Electric has been trying to redevelop a massive 24-acre site in the Melrose neighborhood of Oakland since 2010. But complications with contamination and historic structures have slowed efforts. Now, GE has teamed up with a developer that wants to build a 540,000 square-foot industrial building on the site. The proposal may be one of the last major opportunities in the blistering hot and increasingly crowded East Bay industrial real estate market.
While no formal application for 5441 international Blvd. has been submitted to the city, a preliminary proposal will be heard at the Planning Commission on Jan. 16. The applicant listed, Bridge Development Partners LLC, has had its eye on the site since 2017. GE (NYSE:GE) agreed last summer to eventually sell the property to Bridge.
The proposal calls for demolishing all eight buildings on the site and replacing them with a single structure. That plan, however, faces large obstacles. Two buildings slated to be demolished were deemed historic resources, according to city documents. That designation could make it harder to get permission to knock them down.
Further complicating the picture is the site’s contamination from toxic chemicals, a legacy of its use as a transformer manufacturer for half a century under GE, as detailed in a draft of the environmental impact report. Environmental remediation efforts in place since 1980 have failed to eliminate PCBs, lead, asbestos and other toxins in the ground and the building materials. After years as a vacant eyesore, the site was declared a nuisance in 2010 by the city of Oakland.
Tom Ashcraft, senior vice president of Bridge, said that the site’s numerous challenges made the opportunity attractive. The Chicago-based development firm, founded in 2000, searches nationally for industrial projects with problems that would discourage other developers.