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Redevelopment Watch: Can Oakland Hack it?

According to a bittersweet report delivered in today's Wall Street Journal, longtime underdog Oakland is "emerging from the shadow of San Francisco" as a boon of new development projects take shape around the city: the second phase of Jack London Square , a mixed-use market fashioned after Seattle's Pike Place, along with a Catholic cathedral, new retail space, and 600 or so units' worth of residential real estate make for a redevelopment effort that— confidence-inspiring as it may be— some worry the city won't be able to sustain. Attributed by the WSJ to the regions's lack of a large technology sector (blinders: on), the East Bay has the area's weakest economy; net job levels have fallen recently, as its real estate market is showing signs of strain, too. Retail vacancies are on the rise, and annual rent growth for shopping areas has risen.

Oakland's condo boom has gone bust, too, as developers struggle to sell units by any means necessary, including auctions and buyer incentives unlike those we've seen on this side of the Bay. Back in 1999, then-mayor Jerry Brown set the goal of luring 10,000 new residents into downtown Oakland; around 6,000 new housing units would accommodate such population growth, and as of now, under 5,000 have actually been built while another 6,000 are approved or in planning. Developers remain hopeful, citing a "critical mass" of real estate-buying, retail and resto-loving newbies as an inspiration to carry on. Party line: toed.
· Emerging From the Shadows of San Francisco [Wall Street Journal]