Turn the bottom level into a home office or transform the space into a guest bedroom—it's all up to the resident. West End Commons, a 91-unit live/work community being built in Oakland, Calif., boasts large, open, multi-use spaces for maximum flexibility. “Use of the space will change over time,” says Elizabeth Costello, principal of San Francisco-based Pocket Development. “Live/work is just a really versatile type of space, and it's very popular in urban areas of California.”

On the site of a former container storage yard, West End Commons is pivotal in the revitalization of Oakland's West End, Costello says. For maximum curb appeal, all units will face one of five private lanes, lined with pavers instead of asphalt and landscaped with trees, vines, and grass. Plus, a new stretch of the San Francisco Bay Trail runs near the property.

West End Commons
West End Commons

“It's like living in some back alley of London,” says David Baker, partner at David Baker + Partners Architects, the project's architect. This setup is uncommon, because it's hard to get approval from traffic engineers, he adds.

Unlike traditional townhomes, each unit is a separate structure with no shared walls. And with plenty of nooks for residents to gather, “there's a feeling of intimacy and ownership that happens,” Baker says.

West End Commons brings color to this eclectic neighborhood, which offers industrial businesses, artist studios, historic homes, and a new stretch of the San Francisco Bay Trail, part of a planned 400-mile network connecting the Bay Area. Phase one is complete, with the full project expected to be finished by late 2005.