Historical photo of the Oakley DuPont manufacturing site from the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Chemours)

Ground broke Tuesday on a five-building, 143-acre commercial project with light industrial, warehouse, distribution, e-commerce “fulfillment” and light manufacturing that one local official hailed as a regional “job magnet.”

The Contra Costa Logistics Center, a 2 million-square-foot project to be constructed on land that from 1955 until 1998 was home to a DuPont chemical plant, is being built by Kansas City-based NorthPoint Development.

An undisclosed tenant that will occupy one full building has already been secured, and that business could be up and running by summer, according to Jed Momot, NorthPoint’s chief strategy officer.

City and county officials are optimistic this development will eventually host 1,900 full-time jobs, in addition to almost 500 expected jobs from local supporting businesses and another 725 construction jobs. Plans call for the NorthPoint project to take up 143 acres along the southwest portion of the site; an additional 232 acres would remain open.

Michael Taylor, president of the urban redevelopment firm Vita Nuova, shows project plans to a visitor at the groundbreaking event.
(Photo by Sam Richards/Bay City News Foundation)

The project will provide an estimated $388,400 in new revenues annually at full buildout to Oakley’s general fund, as well as a contribution of $420,000 per year in revenue to the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. The fire district has been in tenuous financial condition for several years, and welcomes the infusion.

NorthPoint officials expect the complex to be fully built in about four years. The Oakley location is good on several fronts, said Chad Meyer, president of NorthPoint.

“We figured that since we had good connections to rail, the labor demographics, that it’s a chip shot to San Francisco and Oakland … we can serve a lot of commerce from a central location,” Meyer said.

It’s also close to NorthPoint Development’s closest existing development to Contra Costa County: the SouthPort Business Park in West Sacramento, a four-building, 1.1 million-square-foot development.

DuPont bought the Oakley property in 1955, and plant operations began the next year. There, the chemical giant produced chlorofluorocarbons, refrigerants, lead antiknock compounds for fuel and titanium dioxide — a pigment used in paints and foods. More than 600 people worked there at the plant’s peak.

Officially known as the DuPont Antioch plant, it closed in 1998, and few traces of it remain.

Those lost jobs hurt the area’s economy, and Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick said the city, county and others worked for almost two decades to bring new jobs to the area. Proposals for a sports park and a power plant both fizzled, he said.

“This project will be a job magnet, addressing our jobs/housing imbalance,” Romick told Tuesday’s groundbreaking crowd of about 100 people. “Today we break ground on our economic future.”

The “labor demographics” Meyer mentioned is a large pool of workers from in and near East Contra Costa who now travel to jobs in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

Before a big new project could be created on the old DuPont site, it needed to be cleaned up. Kevin Garon, a remediation official with former property owner Chemours (a spinoff company from DuPont), noted the 20 years’ worth of environmental remediation needed at the site, where chemicals in the soil and groundwater from 43 years of DuPont operations were a problem. That was a key reason officials from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control attended the groundbreaking.

This project is also on the eastern edge of the Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative. It’s a Contra Costa County-led regional cluster-based economic development plan with a goal of creating 18,000 new jobs by 2035 along 55 miles of waterfront from Pinole north through Rodeo and east along San Pablo Bay and Carquinez Strait through Crockett, Martinez, Avon, Bay Point, Pittsburg and Antioch to Oakley. The envisioned tenants include advanced transportation fuels makers, bio-tech/bio-medical companies, “diverse manufacturing,” food processing and clean technology businesses.

Meyer had praised Oakley for its “business-friendly and receptive” stance in helping land the NorthPoint development. County Supervisor Diane Burgis, in whose District 3 this development will be, said many players were business-friendly and receptive.

“This is good for all of us, and that’s the whole point,” she said. “We’re all working together.”