OAKLAND — Developers broke ground Wednesday on a planned 23-story office tower at Oakland City Center.

The groundbreaking ceremony — replete with a live band and lunch for the more than 100 attendees — came as the nation wrestles with a financial crisis of enormous magnitude.

But Shorenstein Properties and MetLife Real Estate Investments still believe their project will be a success.

"Obviously the economy is in a tough patch," Shorenstein President Glenn Shannon said. "But the reality is that in large, downtown office developments, the development cycle is three to four years and you almost never start and finish in the same cycle.

"Our view is that you that come up with a quality product in a location that has long-term value and "... you deliver a product that, over a long-term haul, is going to perform well."

Mayor Ron Dellums said the companies' commitment in a tough economy was a powerful statement in the confidence they have in Oakland's future.

The tower, 601 City Center, will be diagonally across from the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building at Jefferson and 12th streets.

The mayor noted it will block the view of the building that bears his name.

"That's OK," he said. "It's a small price to pay as we take Oakland forward." Dellums said he expects the building to bring 1,000 new jobs with it.

Executives aim to have 601 City Center completed in fall 2010 and said it will include 596,767 square feet of office space and ground-level retail. It also will include some environmentally friendly features, from rooftop gardens to energy-saving windows. Shorenstein said it will be one of the largest "green" office buildings in the East Bay.

"We think it's going to be the best building in the city and we're real proud to be doing it," said Todd Sklar, a Shorenstein senior vice president.

The building is being designed by Ted Korth of Korth Sunseri Hagey Architects of San Francisco. Korth also designed 555 City Center, another Shorenstein project, completed in 2002 that, according to Shannon, has an occupancy rate of about 95 percent.

Shannon pointed to that building's success when questioned about the impact the economy might have on 601 City Center.

"In good markets and bad markets people go to a high-quality product," he said.

"That's our view."

Contact Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435 or krayburn@bayareanewsgroup.com.