Historical North Berkeley corner is renovated

A rendering of what the 100-year-old building at El Dorado and Sutter will look like when renovated. Photo: Trachtenberg Architects

Update, 04.10.11: Commenting on this story, several readers have mentioned Ninepatch, a store which served the community for 36 years in this building. Pam Zelnik, daughter of the store’s founder, sent in a photo of the shop, which you can find at the foot of the piece.

Update, 4:40pm: Because this story provoked a lively discussion about the architectural renovation under way for this building, we are publishing some additional photographs of the building in its pre-remodeling state, as well as some more renderings from the architect of what the finished result will be like. They can be found at the foot of the story…

The building at the corner of El Dorado Avenue and Sutter Street, near the entrance to the Northbrae Tunnel, has been through myriad incarnations. And now it is undergoing an overdue renovation with a new purpose in mind.

Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg is working with Kaufman Construction, another Berkeley business, to transform the neglected structure into a 7,900 sq ft office building with two retail spaces on the first floor. The $3.2 million re-build will create offices to house Tom Sawyer Software which is moving its headquarters to Berkeley from Oakland. There is no news yet on who will occupy the stores.


The building in the 1920s shows a bakery, a grocery store and pharmacy. Photo courtesy Trachtenberg Architects

“This has been a long time coming,” said Trachtenberg, whose projects in Berkeley include the Oregon Street Berkeley Bowl, the former Cody’s bookstore on Fourth Street, and La Farine on Solano Avenue. Trachtenberg says the recession put a temporary stop to the revamp, but the building’s owner, Tom Sawyer Software’s Brendan Madden, who lives just a few blocks away, has “both the commitment and the deep pockets needed to resurrect this site for the enjoyment of generations to come”.

An electric train emerges from the Northbrae Tunnel, which was built in 1911. Photo courtesy Trachtenberg Architects

While the interior of the building will be built anew, its scale and façade will be in keeping with the original, 100-year-old architecture, as well with as the neighborhood.

Photographs from the 1920s, when the tunnel was used for its original purpose — electric trains rather than cars — show that the building used to house a pharmacy, a grocery store and a bakery, among others. The location would have been ideal for customers getting off and on the electric railway at its nearby stop.

The renovations are due to be completed by year end.

New photographs:

The building before work got underway to renovate it
A rendering of the building from roughly the same angle showing addition and façade
The building pre-renovation
Rendering showing details of the future façade
Detail of building's exterior before remodeling work began
Rendering showing details of the future façade
Ninepatch operated its store for 36 years from the building at the corner of Sutter and El Dorado. Photo courtesy Pam Zelnik