"Jack London Square will be the biggest public market on the West Coast," promised Jim Falaschi, managing partner of project developers Transbay Holdings and Jack London Square Investors.
Formerly dubbed Harvest Hall, the six-story Jack London Market will be constructed on the Embarcadero between Webster and Harrison streets, across from the Amtrak station.
When completed in early 2009, it will occupy 170,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. The first floor will feature an open-air farmers market with local produce, artisan foods and fresh meat and fish halls. Bistros and restaurants are planned for the second floor, while culinary businesses and a professional chefs' kitchen are planned for the third floor. The top floors will include space for offices.
A parking garage structure will be finished within 18 months, developers said.
Developers, including Ellis Partners, Transbay Holdings and Jack London Investors, seethe market as a water-side tourist destination as well as a bustling marketplace for daytime consumers.
The marketplace "will have an everyday fresh market," Falaschi said. "That means produce, bread, a delicatessen.
Asked how Jack London Market addresses the needs of working-class consumers, he said, "There will be a variety of venues with appeal to a broad spectrum of racial and economic" groups.
The new emporium, however, is only one aspect of a plan that includes some 1 million square feet of new development over the next seven years to attract consumers, business and tourists. Falaschi said construction will begin this year on four new structures in Jack London Square, with construction beginning next year on three more. Those buildings will house mostly commercial development to enhance the Jack London area.
At the groundbreaking Monday, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata of Oakland praised the project, saying it will "(reorient) Oakland from the hills to the waterfront."
The city is interested in developing retail projects that serve residents across the entire economic spectrum, said Councilwoman Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), referring to the city's retail investment strategy.
Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency is working to identify neighborhoods in particular need for retail stimulation and opportunities for retail expansion. Keira Williams, urban economic analyst with the Economic Development Agency, said the marketplace will boost efforts to revive Jack London Square.
"The downtown area needs a grocery store to buy food to take home and prepare," Williams said. "This concept sounds good. It will speak to the needs of people for fresh foods.
"But," she added, "will people living within a half mile go there for things like Pampers and toilet paper?"
Still, she said, Oakland will benefit from the new development.