Highbridge wants to build 105 homes in Oakland's Fruitvale —and that could be just the start

An Oakland developer is planning to create an arts-centric neighborhood in Fruitvale. The concept includes affordable housing for artists and space for galleries, performance venues, and studios.

Highbridge wants to build 105 homes in Oakland's Fruitvale —and that could be just the start

Oakland's Highbridge Equity Partners revealed plans for a residential project of 105 units in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland this week. The firm claims that it is just the beginning of their efforts to transform a large swath the neighborhood.

Highbridge and Nabr, a real estate startup, submitted plans on May 18 for a six story, 105 unit project at 1026 Cotton St. with parking, amenities, and retail space in the ground floor. The preliminary design plans indicate that the project will have three residential towers, each sharing a podium.

The project would include approximately 100 parking spaces in the basement and ground floor. It would replace a small building that was previously used for a surface parking lot and as a restaurant. Highbridge is the owner of the property.

Highbridge Equity General partner Douglas Abrams stated Thursday that the company hopes the project will be one of the first in a larger redevelopment to transform a half-dozen acres in Fruitvale’s Jingletown – already considered an emerging hub for the arts – into the premier arts districts in the Bay Area.

The Loom would serve as the project's anchor, which is a warehouse of approximately 140,000 square feet that Highbridge purchased in 2019. It is estimated that seven artists are currently working out of this building. Abrams stated that the group was expected to grow closer to 50 artists.

Abrams explained that the Loom could become The Loom District, a district in San Francisco similar to Wynwood (a former industrial area of Miami which has been transformed into an arts and entertainment center). He said that the Bay Area is lacking a place of this kind, and Highbridge believes its piece in Jingletown would be perfect.

Property records indicate that the investor and developer paid less than $24M over the last three years for 1026 Cotton St., two other parcels --2150 Livingston St. & 920 22nd Ave. -- and totaling 5.2 acres of land in the immediate vicinity.

Abrams explained that the project will eventually expand to include a living component as well as an entertainment component and a theatre. It would function like a new neighborhood with European flair.

The 1026 Cotton St. Project, which is slated to be built on just over an acre of land, will include studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments.

The project plans did not specify if the units were apartments or condos. Brooklyn-based Nabr - which describes itself as a "direct-to consumer real estate start-up" - purchased its first San Jose project last year and offered roughly 4% units in the first phase of the project through a program it called a lease to own. Nabr tenants could choose to purchase their apartments at a predetermined price. Nabr would then contribute a small amount of their rent payments -- about 1% at the time, according to the company -- towards the purchase.

Highbridge is one of Oakland’s most prolific boutique investor firms over the last decade. The firm has spent over $100 million in office buildings, including the iconic Tribune Tower, between 2016 and 2019. Since then, it has spent a significant amount of capital renovating these properties to prepare them for post-pandemic times.

Abrams stated that the reduced demand for office space was not enough to dissuade his firm. 'Despite the difficult environment we are in, and the difficulties we're experiencing with office buildings, our firm is looking forward to the future.