arial view of a building complex

Coliseum Connection

UrbanCore Transforms East Oakland Neighborhood in Partnership With Community Bank of the Bay

Uplifting Communities

Michael Johnson talks about how UrbanCore and CBB work together to uplift their shared community.

Uplifting communities is what we do best. You might not expect to hear this from a bank, but it’s at the core of what we do. Our banking relationship with UrbanCore is a perfect illustration.

In one of the most expensive places to live in the world, there is one affordable housing developer that stands out among the rest: UrbanCore. In 1999, when president Michael Johnson was looking to finance UrbanCore’s “Palm Villas” development in East Oakland, he turned to CBB and met Wil Hobbs, Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer.

Over the past 20 years, UrbanCore’s trust in us has deepened. CBB has partnered with UrbanCore in financing over half a dozen projects.

Their most recent project is a beautiful and modern, 110-unit, modular named Coliseum Connections because of its proximity to BART’s Oakland Coliseum station. The project—a jigsaw puzzle of public and private money—was 17 years in the making. UrbanCore streamlined funding through its tactical/strategic partnerships and started construction in October 2017. Less than two years later, renters are signing their leases and moving in.

“You have to be flexible, innovative, and a problem solver,” explained Wil Hobbs, Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at Community Bank of the Bay. Many banks may shy away from public project financing, he said, because of the complicated partnerships involved.

It helps to have a bank with the know-how to provide the right financing and terms for initiating large-scale development projects.

Once CBB signed on with the project and helped secure the necessary funding, years of backlog disappeared. The project moved forward and the City of Oakland recouped its original grant money—plus 55 units of affordable housing.

In a city facing an affordable housing crisis, that’s an incredible triumph. And, it’s an accomplishment we’re thrilled to share with UrbanCore. The developer is now considering a second phase to the successful project.

Community Bank of the Bay’s long-term relationship with UrbanCore is representative of the bank’s mission-driven commitment to local development. “We are not transaction-oriented bankers, we are relationship bankers,” Wil explained. “We want an ongoing business relationship with our clients. That means we are going to have a deeper understanding of what motivates and informs their decisions as business owners so we can make certain that those decisions make good business sense and are mission-aligned with ours.”

The synergy is mutual. Michael Johnson said his company prefers to work with a community bank, “to further our local commitment to Oakland-based businesses,” and because of the “outstanding service” his company receives.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with UrbanCore in response to the region’s affordable housing crisis. “CBB has been a valuable partner by providing much-needed working capital lending over the last several years,” Mr. Johnson said. “Under the leadership of Wil Hobbs, [they have shown] a commitment to the success of our business.”