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Oakland Developer Files Permits For Second Tallest Wood Frame Building In The Country

By Sarah Klearman

Oakland developer oWow has filed initial building permits for a 19-story, mixed-use mass timber building at 1510 Webster St. in Oakland that would be the second-tallest wooden building in the U.S. and the tallest on the West Coast.

The plan includes 222 residential units — a mix of one- and two-bedrooms — and approximately 15,000 square feet of office and retail space, according to oWow CEO Danny Haber. The development will feature 18 stories of residential units constructed with mass timber on a concrete podium.

An earlier iteration of the project with slightly fewer residential units and less square footage was approved by the Oakland's Planning Commission in March, oWow Project Manager Colin Nelson told me. He added that the Planning Commission has signaled its intentions to approve the updated project plan.

OWow had long planned to use mass timber in the construction of the building, according to Haber, knowing that a change to California Building Code set to take effect July 1 would allow mass timber buildings to rise up to 18 stories. Mass timber construction in California had previously been limited to five stories for office and six stories for residential.

Mass timber, a kind of fortified wood, has come to be seen by the construction industry as a plausible and sustainable alternative for steel and concrete construction. Because mass timber can be prefabricated with a high degree of accuracy, mass timber construction timelines can be as much as 15% faster than that of concrete and steel.

Twenty-two percent of the units in the project will be earmarked for affordable housing. The remaining 78% will be market rate, but priced at between 80-120% of AMI, Haber said. OWow Design is the project’s architect, and oWow Construction is its general contractor; savings from the company’s vertically integrated business model will allow it to offer the units at “workforce” prices, Haber told me. The company plans to hire external subcontractors.

In a bid to boost the project’s cost effectiveness and efficiency, oWow plans to offer two floor plans instead of the typical 15 or 20 a developer might incorporate into a building the size of 1510 Webster, Haber said. Floor plans will run either 380 or 570 square feet.

“We’re… standardizing everything, and that’s through the entire building,” Haber said.

Construction costs are estimated at $29 million, according to Nelson.

The building permits oWow filed are for the construction of the concrete podium upon which the 18 stories of mass timber will be built. The company intends to file the permits for the mass timber portion of the project in August.

The building could be the first project to capitalize upon the update to California’s building code. Upon its completion, it will be the second tallest mass timber building in the country, second only to Milwaukee’s 25-story Ascent tower, which is on pace for completion in the summer of 2022.

OWow's portfolio includes a five-story mixed-use mass timber project at 316 12t

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