"AVDITORIVM OF THE CITY OF OAKLAND DEDICATED BY THE CITIZENS TO THE INTELLECTVAL
AND INDVSTRIAL PROGRESS OF THE PEOPLE ANNO DOMINI MCXIV"
Dedicated in in 1914 as the Oakland Municiple Auditorium, the Beaux Arts-style building features seven arched niches containing sculptural reliefs designed by Alexander Stirling Calder collectively titled "Riches of the Earth."
In 1982, the building was renamed to honor American industrialist, Henry J. Kaiser.
That same year, the theatre was named to honor former Oakland Symphony conductor
Calvin Simmons, the first African-American conductor of a major symphony orchestra,
who tragically pased away at the age of 32.
The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center (HJKCC) contains approximately 215,000 square feet of floor area
and includes a 45,000 square foot, 6,000 seat arena and a 1,900 seat theatre,
as well as multiple ballrooms and a full basement.
Historically, the site has been used as two adjoining but distinct venues.
The convention center and theatre have a very rich history.
The 45,000 square foot arena has hosted events ranging from a Martin Luther King Jr.
speech on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation’s signing
to concert performances by Elvis, James Brown, and the Grateful Dead.
Opposite the arena floor sits the Calvin Simmons Theatre, a 1,900- seat venue that shares a stage with the arena.
Since the arena and theatre share a single stage area, there were often issues with
noise contamination when both venues were in use on the same night.
For example, on one night, a ballerina performance of Anna Pavlova’s “The Dying Swan”
in the Calvin Simmons Theatre was drowned out by a boxing match next door,
according to Graham Lustig, Artistic Director of the Oakland Ballet Company.
Since its closure in 2005, the City has made several attempts to sell or reuse the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.
A bond measure was placed on the ballot in 2006 to fund the conversion of the building
to the City's new main public library, but the measure was defeated.
In 2010, Peralta Community College District considered purchasing the facility for $10 million,
but in 2011 declined to move forward.
In 2011, the building was sold for $28 million to the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.
In 2012, the redevelopment agency was dissolved by the State of California,
and ownership of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center reverted back to the City of Oakland.
In September of 2014, the City of Oakland released a request for proposals for the
rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and, in the summer of 2015,
Oakland City Council approved an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with Orton Development.
The City of Oakland will retain ownership, with Orton Development long-term leasing this historic Landmark from the City.