A Food Lover’s Paradise

With high-end restaurants, a large mix of artisian food vendors, a weekend farmer’s market and a significant amount of Class A office space, Jack London Market promises to be many things to many people – a food lover’s utopia, a convenient local market and a place to do business.

Located at Water Street between Harrison and Webster streets in Oakland, Jack London Market is a six-story, 172,000-square-foot building that will combine two floors of food purveyors and restaurants with four floors of office space.  The project is under construction on a former parking lot at Jack London Square and is an important part of the $400 million Jack London Square redevelopment project.  It is scheduled for completion in 2009.

When the development is finalized, the 72,000-square-foot market will be the largest of its kind on the West Coast and feature a design unlike any other.

“It is a unique model that will bring together the best local artisan food, gourmet cuisine and sustainable agriculture businesses,” says Jim Ellis, principal of Ellis Partners, which is developing the project in partnership with Transbay Holdings.

The ground floor will be home to dozens of food vendors and retailers who will sell meat, produce, specialty food items and more.  The second floor will include at least three fine-dining restaurants, and the remaining floors are reserved for a food-focused education center and 100,000 square feet of Class A offices.

Jack London Market is one of four new buildings constructed in the first phase of a 1.8-million-square-foot redevelopment by Jack London Square Partners, a private company that has partnered with the Port of Oakland to redevelop the square.  The other planned buildings include additional office space, a hotel, a conference center and parking garages.

The developers used Seattle’s Pike Place and Vancouver’s Granville Market as strong reference points when planning the market, but Ellis is quick to point out that Jack London Market will be unlike any other in the world.

According to Ellis, there are two basic layouts that are commonly used when designing public markets – linear (such as San Francisco Ferry Building design) and square (such as Granville Market design in Vancouver).  “We spent a lot of time studying these different markets,” says Ellis.  “And we decided to go for a hybrid design.”

This hybrid design, which was conceived by HOK, RMW Architecture & Interiors and Steven Worthington Architects, includes a wide rectangular main section, which allows the developers to provide more stalls with greater frontage and better circulation.  “This means that people won’t be stacked up on top of each other and crowded in one narrow, central space,” says Ellis.

Ellis notes that they also identified several types of businesses that could operate on thier own when the market is closed.  “We want owners behind the counters so we need to close at a decent hour to make sure they can have a life, too,” he says.  “But the market is designed to accommodate businesses, such as bakeries and cafes, which can stay open when everyone else goes home.”

The design also calls for a large education space that ties in with the overall goal of the market, which is to highlight the Bay Area’s sustainable food movement and cuisine culture.  “We’ll have about 60 vendors in the market, and this center will allow shoppers to interact with the food experts,” says Will Miller of Ellis Partners.

In addition, the design includes a surplus of dry and cold storage, which Ellis says has been undersized in most public markets.  Most importantly, he says, the market preserves the look and feel of historic buildings with industrial touches – a look that has proven successful for public markets around the world.

Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit organization that helps build and sustain public spaces, says that there has never been more interest in public markets than now, and that the tradition of public markets is re-established in communities across the country.  There are more than 4,300 farmers’ markets in the U.S., and their numbers are growing, according to PPS.

Ellis and his development team are banking on this interest.  They traveled and studied many of the biggest public markets in the United States while designing and planning Jack London Market.  They found that the successful historic public markets in the world are located on the water, which confirmed their belief that a waterfront market would be an ideal way to use the 2,000 lineal feet of water in Jack London Square.

While many locals have referrred to Jack London Market as Oakland’s own Ferry Building, Ellis points out that, while there are parallels, Jack London Market is a different type of market.  “This is a unique development that caters to the everyday, local resident shopper,” he says.  “There will be a tourism factor, but it’s more of a working public market where residents can purchase specialty foods, produce, meat and just about everything else they need.”

Jack London Market will also be the only public market on the West Coast that includes Class A office space.  The building gives businesses an opportunity to be located within the Jack London District’s waterfront region.  According to Ellis, all parts of the building are in some phase of lease negotiation.  However, he was unable to release any prospective tenant’s names until the ink dries on the leases.

Bill Nork, senior vice president at Cornish and Carey, says that businesses are very interested in leasing the office portion of the Jack London Market for a number of reasons.  “This is a whole new venue for Class A tenants,” he says.  “In the past, they were limited to Lake Merritt and City Center.  Now they have a beautiful building that is right on the water and is close to entertainment, restaurants and everything Jack London Square has to offer.  There’s really nothing else like it in the Bay Area.”

Nork, Ellis and Miller are confident that the market will bring a desired component to Oakland’s waterfront, helping to create a vibrant and thriving new neighborhood by the bay.  “Jack London Market will certainly increase the vibrancy and velocity of the neighborhood and of Oakland in general,” says Nork.  “It will really help place Jack London Square on the map as a place where people want to live, work and visit.”

Source: The Registry, November 2008

Author: Michelle Savage