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A lukewarm review for new Berkeley building

New Californian building on Trader Joe's opening day.

The building which houses Berkeley’s newly opened Trader Joe’s was given a lukewarm review by the Chronicle’s urban design writer John King this weekend.

While King welcomed the five story mixed-use building as an example of the sort of smart growth cities like Berkeley need, he was less than enthusiasic about its design, calling it “more overstuffed than urbane”.

The New Californian building, as it is called, comprises 148 apartments as well as Berkeley’s first Trader Joe’s. In style terms, it is a mixed bag of Craftsman and neo-Spanish references, with a red-brick base and a mustard-yellow stucco facade.

The building was designed by Oakland architect Kirk Peterson, who favors historically influenced design and who has designed several other Berkeley buildings, including the Bachenheimer and Gaia projects, Southside Square, and 1717 Fourth Street. The New Californian Building was developed by Hudson McDonald.


The city of Berkeley appears to deliberately shy away from anything contemporary when commissioning new construction — perhaps a reflection of the taste of its residents. As King put it: “[This is a] city where many people bridle at anything that looks as though it was designed after Julia Morgan retired.”

Photo: Keoki Seu.