Chinese partner looks to expand Oakland waterfront project

Zarsion seeks to add 600 units in Brooklyn Basin

The Brooklyn Basin in Oakland (Brooklyn Basin)
The Brooklyn Basin in Oakland (Brooklyn Basin)

China-based investment firm Zarsion Holdings filed paperwork with the city of Oakland to increase the number of units for its project on the waterfront from 3,100 to 3,700, according to public records.

The proposal for the Brooklyn Basin project go before the city’s Planning Commission on Jan 11.

The master developer of the project is Oakland-based Signature Development Group. When the project was first proposed in the early 2010s, Signature needed investors to come on board to build 3,100 homes, 200,000 square feet of commercial space and a marina at the 65-acre Oakland waterfront site in a project that would take up to 15 years.

Their search for a partner aligned with Zarsion’s desire to break into the U.S. market. Then mayor Jean Quan made the introduction between Zarsion Chairman Weixun Shan and Signature’s Mike Ghielmetti, who met in the Bay Area in 2013 to negotiate a partnership that would produce $1.5 billion in investments for the Brooklyn Basin project, the SF Business Times reported at the time. Zarsion’s investments grew as the project progressed.

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“The Chinese group moved faster, more candidly and more efficiently than their American counterparts,” Ghielmetti said. “This was a better option for partners. They have a good reputation at home, good capacity and wanted to come to a new market and expand.”

Since its founding in 1994, Zarsion has built 3.3 million square feet of commercial and residential space in China annually. Ghielmetti added that when the project was in its initial stages, the country was still in a recession and “people’s confidence is still shaken.” At the same time, Chinese firms were very optimistic about the U.S. market.

In Oakland, some recent projects approved for development include a near 400-unit apartment complex proposed by Los Angeles-based Cityview, which would be one of the largest residential developments in the city’s history. Also, Washington-based SRM Development has proposed 200 units of senior housing.

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