OAKLAND -- Construction is about to begin on the city's single-biggest housing development in at least a half century, raising expectations that Oakland is in store for a home-building boom and a dramatic remaking of its waterfront.

Over the next decade, 65 acres of industrial land south of Jack London Square is slated to become Brooklyn Basin: a 3,100-home neighborhood boasting up to five residential towers, numerous shops, 30 acres of park space, a link to the Bay Trail and a marina with 200 boat slips.

The development sits on two strips of land that bulge intothe Oakland estuary, separated from the rest of the city by Interstate 880.

Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan, center, meets Weixun Shan, right, the chairman of Zarsion Holdings Group, which is partnering with Signature Development
Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan, center, meets Weixun Shan, right, the chairman of Zarsion Holdings Group, which is partnering with Signature Development Group on the new $1.5 billion, 3100-home Brooklyn Basin project, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the development, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Oakland. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

The first phase of the $1.5 billion project, originally known as Oak-to-Ninth, includes 1,200 units -- one third of which will be permanently affordable. Before the first homes come on the market in two years, the developers, Oakland-based Signature Development Group and Beijing-based Zarsion Holdings Group, hope to begin the next phase of the project, which is slated to include another 800 units.

The total project is estimated to produce about 10,000 construction jobs.

"This is a symbol of Oakland's renaissance in so many ways," Mayor Jean Quan said during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday that was attended by the Chinese Consul General Yuan Nansheng.


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The mayor helped revive the development last year through a college chum who works for Zarsion, which had been looking to invest in U.S. development projects.

The company's chairman Weixun Shan, speaking in Chinese, pledged to build the project "as soon as possible and as good as possible," during Thursday's ceremony.

The project is by far the biggest piece of housing boom that the mayor expects to yield 7,500 units in a city where rents have jumped 25 percent in only the last two years. If fully built out, Brooklyn Basin will comprise roughly half the total units built in connection with former Mayor Jerry Brown's 10K plan, which sought to bring 10,000 residents to Oakland's city center.

Coupled with a project underway to transform the former Oakland Army Base into a logistics and warehousing center, there is currently about $2 billion being invested into Oakland's waterfront.

Several of the city's most influential businessmen, including Signature's Mike Ghielmetti, are working to lay the groundwork for another major waterfront project: a proposed ballpark for the Oakland A's at a shipping terminal just north of Jack London Square.

Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan sits between Zarsion Holdings Group Chairman Weixun Shan, left, and Chinese Consul General Nansheng Yuan at a
Oakland, Calif. Mayor Jean Quan sits between Zarsion Holdings Group Chairman Weixun Shan, left, and Chinese Consul General Nansheng Yuan at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $1.5 billion, 3100-home Brooklyn Basin project, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Oakland. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

Ghielmetti said the two projects were unrelated, but that Brooklyn Basin should "pave the way for more economic development and jobs for the city."

Signature obtained development rights to the waterfront property from the Port of Oakland in 2001 and got City Council approval for a project five years later despite significant community opposition. Unable to get bank loans after the 2008 financial collapse, the firm appeared ready to give up on the project only three years ago when it offered it to UC Berkeley as a new laboratory site.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435