The City of Oakland is now slated to get a new economy resident in an old, iconic building. Uber is moving into a former Sears building located in the city’s downtown, stoking as much fear about gentrification as excitement about economic development.
The Sears building, renamed Uptown Station when it was bought by developer Lane Partners of Menlo Park last year, once symbolized a depressed economy in the city as the store struggled until it finally closed. Now it symbolizes a growing economy and changing neighborhood.
While it's been controversial for plenty of other reasons, Uber by and large hasn't been a focus of the kind of anti-gentrification protests that have targeted other big tech-industry employers, especially Google, with its all-too-visible fleet of shuttle buses.
In fact, rumors circulated at one point that Google had plans to move into Uptown Station. With Uber now slated to fill the building with 2,000 to 3,000 employees starting in 2017, Bay Area residents are wondering if the change will mean an influx of white-collar residents leading to climbing rents in the city, forcing the displacement of lower income residents, artists and ethnic communities.
One Tweet read, “Oakland, a bastion of proud blackness cast amongst hella regular 'Silicon Valley' cities #oaklandismyhome.”
Oakland, a bastion of proud blackness cast amongst hella regular "Silicon Valley" cities #oaklandismyhome— Darrell Jones III (@darrelljonesiii) September 23, 2015
“Oakland is my safe space. The respite away from the oppressive racist, sexist, wasteland of Techlandia. I don’t want that energy in my home,” read another.
Oakland is my safe space. The respite away from the oppressive racist, sexist, wasteland of Techlandia. I don't want that energy in my home.— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) September 23, 2015
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was quoted by KTVU as saying Uber chose Oakland for its magic and its soul. The quote drew responses on Twitter ranging from quizzical to sarcastic.
Maybe Schaaf’s quote “means Uber is the devil and she’s willing to sell Oakland’s soul for cheap,” read one Tweet.
But the mayor and others remain optimistic that having the major tech employer in town will be a boon for residents.
“We’re proud that Uber was attracted to Oakland’s creative energy, incredible talent, progressive values, prime location and accessibility to the entire region,” Schaaf said in a statement. “I also look forward helping Uber make other meaningful contributions to Oakland that will make this a more equitable, vibrant city where everyone can thrive.”
Uber is also building a headquarters in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood.