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History on Point

Submitted by on 1, October 3, 2008 – 11:30 amNo Comment

The folks at SunCal started what will likely be a pretty grueling series of presentations on their draft development concept for Alameda Point on Thursday night with an appearance before the city’s Historical Advisory Board.

We were expecting a little more detail on the developer’s plans to save historic buildings on the shuttered Navy base. What SunCal’s point man (if you’ll pardon the pun) on all things historical, Oakland developer and restoration expert Phil Tagami, offered was his fairly considerable credentials – and SunCal’s financial case for its historic preservation plan, which comes with an estimated $186 million-plus price tag.

In a mercifully brief presentation in which he invoked Yiddish, Socrates and Indiana Jones (and his porkpie hat, too! Sorry Phil – I think that’s a fedora), Tagami explained the underwriting criteria for historic buildings and a whole host of other considerations, from practical to political, in selecting buildings to save.

Then, in offering the Waves Building as an example of how the financial process would work with these buildings, he basically cast much of that stuff aside. That building, which Tagami said he fell in love with (was it the hand-drawn specs the Navy provided?) will cost $7.8 million to fix. It’ll be worth, at most, $3.3 million when he’s done cleaning up the mold and bird poop (they’re calling that three-dimensional waste. Love it!) and replacing outdated electrical and plumbing, among other things.

So Tagami looked at 20 buildings (which are among those listed in SunCal’s development concept; they include the Waves Building, BEQ, BOQ, hangars and more) to see if their restoration can be financed outright. Just eight met underwriting criteria for financing, he said, four were margin-walkers and another eight did not meet those criteria (he didn’t say which were which). But he said he’s looking at these buildings as a package, not a single building, in an effort to make it all pencil out.

So how to pay for what can’t be financed? Tax credits for fixing up historic buildings and fundraising efforts, it sounds like.

Tagami discouraged the city from getting a National Register designation for a historic district on the base before buildings were selected because he thinks it could include un-fixable buildings that would sandbag his or SunCal’s ability to fix up more usable space.

And Tagami – who fixed up Oakland’s Rotunda Building, is fixing up its Fox Theater and just got picked to work on the old Wood Street Station there – said he may partner with the developer on some of these buildings.

The Island’s historic types (mostly folks with the Alameda Architectural Protection Society) seemed fairly happy with the plan, particularly because it saves buildings like some of the Big Whites and the BOQ, which weren’t included in the original development concept for the Point. But they want a few more things added to the list – mainly hangars on Seaplane Lagoon, the Pinball Museum and the old flight tower.

“A bronze plaque wouldn’t be adequate,” the historical board’s Randall Miller said.

And while we’re talking SunCal, it looks like they were just selected by the Army to be master developer for Camp Parks in Dublin, per this bit in the East Bay Business Journal. In exchange for building facilities for the Army Reserve, they’ll get 180 acres of land.

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