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BART Looks To Purchase New Offices In Oakland After Years Of Renting

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- It's a discussion many Bay Area households have had in recent years: Is it better to rent or buy? BART, it appears, is ready to settle down.

"Financially it is going to be good for us," explained BART Board of Directors President Bevan Dufty. "We've already had a plan for an escalation in cost for real estate."

For decades, most of BART's offices have been rented space in the Kaiser Center. Like everywhere else in Oakland, rents are rising. In BART's case, it's a projected rise of 60 percent.

"Being able to purchase this building for 25 years really gives us an asset, not just burning money paying rent," said Dufty.

BART is looking to buy, and they're not looking far. 2150 Webster is right across street and was recently renovated top to bottom.

"You know, probably an A- building, major renovation," explains Stephen Banker, President of LCB Associates. "It would have all the new seismic life-safety amenities, so it will be a top-of-the-line building."

Banker is a commercial real estate broker. He said BART's $220 million dollar investment idea could be a good one in the long term.

"You know, markets can go up, markets can go down,"  said Banker. "If you own the asset, then I think it's a smart move."

BART would buy the building with low-interest rate bonds. The purchase would not involve the $2.5 billion set aside for those new train cars, or the $3.5 billion voters approved to rebuild system infrastructure that was neglected for so many years.

BART says this investment is actually a long-term money saver.

"If we remained as renters, it would be costing BART, and our taxpayers, $115 million to $271 million more over that 25 year period," said Dufty.

This is something BART has been looking at for years. Staff actually started presenting options back in June. The BART Board of Directors will take up the issue later this month.

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