THE HENRY J. KAISER CENTER
You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened. After talking to several hundred Oaklanders over the past six months, we’ve heard you loud and clear: Oakland needs more space for artists and makers struggling to afford Oakland’s new rents; it needs event space flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of performances, big and small; and most of all, it needs a place where Oaklanders from all walks of life can collaborate together and learn from one another.
With your input in mind, we’ve been hard at work designing the rebirth of this Oakland landmark. Our goal is to create a community centered on arts, education, and inclusiveness.
Thank you for telling us your stories, and please let us know if you’d like to chat in the months or years to come. Together, we will reopen the Oakland Civic.
The Orton Development Team
P.S. If you want to give more input, please fill out our survey
Orton Development is approaching its redevelopment
of the Oakland Civic with these values in mind:
History: honor the building’s illustrious history in both function and design
Energy: create a hub of activity that spans the building throughout the day
Community: invite the public into the building, and design space that builds community within it
Arts: accommodate artists as tenants, and value the arts throughout the building.
Education: provide places for people of all ages to learn from experts and each other
Fairness: support uses that all Oakland visitors and residents can enjoy
Explore ODI's other projects here.
We aim to improve both the building and the public spaces around it, creating better links between the Oakland Civic and the community.
The Arena space will be mixed commercial, with arts and non-profit offices occupying the lake-facing north corridor, south 10th Street corridor, and former arena space.
The Calvin Simmons Theatre will return as a stunning performing arts center, hosting live performances and providing event and practice space for local arts organizations. Loge boxes will be added to a section of the second floor mezzanine. A new restaurant will be in the first floor's north concourse.
The building’s basement will house commercial space for the arts and non-profit offices as well as music studios, makers’ spaces, and storage space.
On the north, lake-facing exterior of the building, a porch will be added which will offer visitors spectacular lake views and provide space for restaurant patrons and events.
A simplified landscape design and the removal of the parking lot's central walkway will redirect foot traffic towards the ADA-accessible east and west corners of the building. Special treatment will be given to the area shared between the Calvin Simmons Theatre, Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), and Lake Merritt.
Oakland Civic North Facade Looking Southeast
Explore the exterior elements of the building and site.
Take a closer look at the interior floor plans.
Large room with a stage, used for a variety of events.
Existing 1,900 seat Calvin Simmons Theatre.
Calvin Simmons Theatre ceiling detail featuring floral and geometric motifs with decorative "jewel" colored Bakelite chandeliers.
Calvin Simmons Theatre is a traditional "hemp house." That is, the stage's backdrops are manually operated using a system of ropes, pulleys, and counter-weights.
The Gold Room is one of the ballrooms surrounding Calvin Simmons Theatre
The existing upper-level seating will remain intact.
The former Oakland Auditorium hosted countless events in its 90 years of operation as a venue, ranging from political speeches and conventions to concerts and sporting events. Notable artists and dignitaries that performed or spoke at the arena include Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Clinton, Elvis Presley, James Brown, and the Grateful Dead, who performed 57 shows there between 1979 and 1994. Notably, the arena also hosted the annual Oakland Children’s Holiday Pageant from 1919-1987, an irreverent dance performance that featured thousands of Oakland schoolchildren of all ages dressed as fairies, elves, peppermints, and reindeer. The legendary pageant, put on by dance teacher Louise Jorgensen, would often attract overflow crowds of up to 8,000 during its two annual performances.
The 1,900-seat Calvin Simmons Theatre has played host to many local performing arts organizations over the years, including the Oakland Symphony and Ballet on many occasions.
The Theatre also regularly hosted graduations, recitals, and dance performances featuring local schools and youth organizations before its closure in 2005.
Since its closure in 2005, the City has made several attempts to sell or reuse the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.
Efforts by the City of Oakland to convert the building into the City’s main public library in 2006 and to sell the building to Peralta Community College in 2010 were both unsuccessful.
In September 2014, the City of Oakland released a request for proposals (RFP) for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and awarded Orton Development the exclusive right to develop the project.
1475 Powell St., Suite 101
Emeryville, CA 94608
10 10th St., Oakland, CA 94607