Tim Sanchez hit the commercial real estate jackpot.
It was 5:00 in the morning on Wednesday Sept. 23rd. Sanchez had stayed up all night examining every page of the lease agreement for his new coffee shop Tertulia in downtown Oakland. With each signature, with each stroke of his pen, Sanchez solidified the deal. He reminded himself that his dream of owning a cafe had finally come true.
Just a few hours later, the news broke. Uber Technologies would be moving into the historic Sears building in the heart of downtown Oakland, directly across the street from Tertulia. The seven story building on 1955 Broadway was built in 1927. It housed Sears for nearly two decades. Sanchez’s café would be across the street from what would become home to more than 3,000 Uber employees.
“The timing was great,” Sanchez said as he hunched over the cashier counter. The espresso machine echoed in the background. Around the café, hung neon pink, green and turquoise colored paintings of Freda Khalo, photos of the blood red flowers she wore on her hair. In the center of the room stood an art installation of Khalo’s traditional Mexican attire, a puffy bright orange skirt decorated with white daisies and a silk gold vest on top of a burgundy sweater. Customers browsed around the room with coffee cups in their hands, stopping every so often in front of each piece.
“When you have a tech company like that come in, other companies move in as well,” Sanchez added.
Raising his finger, Sanchez pointed across the street to the parking lot at the corner. It will soon be replaced by a high-rise condo, he explained. Another garage a block away will be a 400-unit development. The building next door will be developed into a 24-story high-rise apartment complex.
“Two years from now, you won’t be able to recognize this place,” Sanchez said.
Outside, traffic was light, streets were deserted and bus stops were nearly empty. The drilling and hammering from the construction site overshadowed the sound of car engines accelerating and busses beeping.
Uber’s new building was hidden. An enormous white plastic cover wrapped the 380,000 square foot building, like a blank canvas waiting to be painted on. Big trucks blocked the only entrance to the construction site. Hundreds of workers unloaded wooden planks, their footsteps hitting the cement floor and echoing throughout the vast space. As they moved, their vests shimmered in the ray of light emanating from the lightbulbs sprinkled through the site. Occasionally, a worker walked outside for a smoke.