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Uber takes out $8 million permit on Oakland building

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Uber-sized work begins turning Beaux-Arts into high-tech

Next time you drive by the old Sears building at 1955 Broadway in Oakland, take a closer look. You might not know it, but you’re now looking at an extra $8 million that wasn’t there before.

That’s the size of the permit just filed for interior remodeling on the circa 1929 building, according to BuildZoom. Last year, ride-sharing company Uber bought all 330,000 feet of the refurbished Beaux-Arts classic last year from Lane Partners, the developer leading the ongoing rehab effort.

Lane had dubbed 1955 Broadway Uptown Station, picturing it as a new hub for business in downtown Oakland, a city that hasn’t seen a commercial development of this scale since, well, a time when this building didn’t require rehabbing.

Buying the entire building whole hog for $123.5 million is possibly the most Uber-like thing that Uber has ever done. Gensler Architects has been spearheading the fix-up job of the storied but somewhat weathered building.

An Uber spokesperson confirmed that some work is about to begin (with more big permits yet to be filed) on tenant improvements, prepping the interiors to look like and serve the needs of a ginormous San Francisco and Silicon Valley-style tech office, which are decidedly distinct from any of its previous incarnations. Originally slated for move-in next spring, the company now says work will probably finish in late 2017 instead.

Although commonly referred to as the Sears building, 1955 Broadway opened and spent most of its life as an HC Capwell department store. The project was quite a banner moment for Oakland in the late ‘20s, with the mayor turning over the first shovel of dirt in a ceremony that reportedly drew thousands.

Sears didn’t move in until 1996, when Capwell finally gave up the ghost. By then it was already looking like a place that had seen better days, having been beaten up by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and some repairs and reinforcements that didn’t necessarily do it any favors, aesthetically speaking.

Sears flew the coop in 2014, leaving the building available for new and bigger things (even if you couldn’t tell by looking at it at the time).