The Leamington - Oakland, CA



The Leamington Hotel, designed by architect W.H. Meeks and completed in 1926, heralded a new era for downtown Oakland, California. As a modern, luxury hotel with a Spanish flair, it included a staffed children’s play area, an information desk for guests and even a pipe organ. It’s said that Amelia Earhart kept an office there before her final journey. The building transitioned from a hotel to became a popular music venue in the 1960s, but ultimately fell on hard times in the 1970s, shuttering its doors in bankruptcy.

It was redeveloped as an office building in the early 1980s, renovations that added three atrium skylights to provide light to a bank located on the first floor. As demand for office space from the tech industry in the Bay Area grows, the building’s owner, Harvest Properties, decided to update the ground floor from offices into a communal space where people can grab a coffee, a bite to eat or just hang out.

Before the renovation, the building’s existing atrium skylights included a stained-glass diffuser and overlooked a bank on the ground floor.


Harvest Properties aimed to design a space that would attract both businesses and customers to The Leamington’s new ground floor dining and retail area, and they knew natural light would create the ambiance they desired.

“We saw great potential for the lobby area,” said Shane Gilroy, associate director with Harvest Properties. “We removed the cubicles there and opened up the space.”

But the old skylights, which had a stained-glass diffuser installed in the ceiling underneath, suffered from heat gain and leaks, and they knew replacing it could be both expensive and time-consuming.

The old skylights shown with the stain-glass diffuser removed. They had started to leak and become discolored.


Crown Sheet Metal & Skylights, a skylight fabrication company based in Burlingame, supplemented its original bid with three skylight options: a custom glass skylight, a fiberglass skylight system and the VELUX Modular Skylight system.

“It was a simple choice for them to save money and go with VMS,” said Don Dennehy Jr., vice president of Crown Sheet Metal. “The VMS system comes with all the performance—the operables and the shades—and a price that is 20 to 30 percent cheaper than custom skylights.”

“The cost to do a custom skylight would have been much more expensive,” said Billy Keller, senior project manager with Pankow, the design build company on the project. “This system was panelized and everything was numbered. It’s like IKEA™ for skylights.”

And while the fiberglass skylight system offered similar plug and play installation, it lacked a sky view the owner desired.

The installation features venting skylights on the ends of each ridgelight to cool the lobby with fresh air during the summer.
Due to a tight working space on the roof, installers used a spider crane to move the VMS ridgelight modules into place.
The lobby has become a focal point for the building’s ground floor retail area.