Arpeggio Building sold, to open in September

The Arpeggio Building at 2055 Center Street has been bought by CityView. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Arpeggio Building at 2055 Center Street, which was once envisioned as gleaming tower of pricy condos, has been sold to a real estate group that plans to open it as apartments in late September.

CityView, a real estate fund founded by Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, paid $60 million for the 143-unit, nine-story building. Its seller was Dallas-based SNK Realty, which had secured a $65 million loan from U.S. Bank as part of its $81 million development of the project.

“We’re really excited,” said Anthony Cardoza, managing director of CityView’s $300 million Bay Area Fund and a resident of Berkeley until last year. “I think it will be nice for the urban core. Berkeley continues to want to invest in downtown. The more bodies you have down there, the more people living there, the more it changes the foot traffic and the feel of the downtown community – for the better.”

Since the condo market has collapsed, CityView will rent the spaces as apartments, with rents ranging from $2,000 a month for studios to $4,500 a month for penthouses with a view, said Cardoza. Twenty-three of the building’s 143 units will be set aside for affordable housing, with rents starting at $900 a month and going up to $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The apartments will appeal to Cal professors, empty nesters, and tech workers, he said. It is not envisioned as appealing to students.

The building is essentially finished, although some apartments still need appliances and flooring.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre recently moved into 13,000-square feet of rehearsal space in the Arpeggio Building, which it will use for its own productions and rent out to other local theater companies.  The original developer of the building was granted permission to build four extra stories – to a height of 120 feet – in exchange for building affordable housing and an art space.

The Arpeggio has been in development for almost a decade. It was originally proposed by Seagate Properties of San Rafael, which sold its investment to SNK in May 2005. SNK started construction of the building in 2008, but apparently ran out of funds before it could complete and open the building. SNK officials have repeatedly declined to talk to Berkeleyside about the situation.

In order to construct the building, SNK had to close part of Center Street for a number of years. The city has a $100,000 lien against the building for that closure. Cardoza said his group will pay off the lien and any other obligations against the building.

The Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System is the largest investor in CityView, which is largely backed by institutional investors.

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  • Bryan Garcia

    $2000 a month for a studio?! Yeesh!

    Pretty sure it’s going to attract students whether they mean for it to or not. Don’t a lot of students live in the Gaia building and all of those related newer properties? They just live two or three to a room to pay for it.

  • Bruce

    The architecture does not do anything for me. It looks like it has been remodeled twice.

  • Charles_Siegel

     I agree – and those “gleaming towers” can blind you when the sun hits them at the right angle.

  • Chris

    Those rents are steep – way too steep for me, however. 3-4 years ago I remember walking by all of the new housing in Uptown Oakland, wondering how they were going to fill the blocks and blocks of condos being built. Well they didn’t sell them as condos, but there are currently waiting lists for many as apartments.

    I know that downtown Berkeley hasn’t undergone (any of) the change of Uptown Oakland, but there is a market for these places – aside from overcrowded student housing.

  • When the words “affordable housing” are used, it should be mandatory that it refer to something that a person (or couple if it’s a 1-2 bedroom) living on minimum wage can afford.  Types of housing units granted permits to build should be tied to the actual wage tiers of the local community.  It’s common sense.

  • guest

    I agree, $900/mo is hardly “affordable”. I’m guessing they’re using some formulaic definition of “affordable” that defines it as some percentage of the market rate, rather than realistic affordability.

  • Biker 94703

    Ah student rentals!  WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED???

    Now if only we could have a few 15 story versions of this, we can finally get all the squalor of frat row downtown.

  • Guest

    This is a University town. Get used to it, or go somewhere else.

  • Mary

    As if $2000 a month wasn’t enough, they think that $900 to $1400 a month is affordable!

  • onesmallhand

    Usually terms such as “affordable housing” have technical definitions governed by state or local agencies. Depending on public subsidies used, or concessions granted, the depth of affordability may change.  Typically, the affordability level is identified at a county “area median income” (“AMI”), but other geographic boundaries can be used.

    At this link, you can see the affordability levels required for “low income housing tax credits”, one of the most important subsidies for building affordable housing:

  • Toni Mester

    Affordable housing is defined by state law if the developer applies for a density bonus, a proportional increase in height and other zoning standards according to the number of units provided. The density bonus law mandates that each municipality adopt a local ordinance, and Berkeley has yet to comply. Nevertheless, the City continues to grant density bonuses in accordance with the law and defines eligibility in the most recent housing element (Income, Employment and Housing Costs p.41) according to the current area median income (AMI), which is $89,300. Extremeley low income for our area is 0-30% AMI, Very Low income for our area is 31-80% AMI, Low income is 51-80% AMI. That means somebody making $70K is designated low income. Do the math.

  • onesmallhand

    Yes, it is most like arrived at from a formula.  Here’s basically how it works:  a certain income level is targeted – such as 60% of area median income.  For one person, in Alameda county, the area median income is $65,500.  So 60% of this would be $39,300.  Then they assume that such a person should pay 30% of their income towards rent, so the monthly rent works out to $982.  It doesn’t seem affordable – because 30% is such a large part of our income – but most of the time, these algorithms are used when the government is providing subsidies, and taxpayers usually want to see the tenants make the greatest contributions they could possibly make. 

    Here is the supporting information on income levels:

    and on rent levels:

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I know, it’s completely insane. 

  • Biker 94703

    Impressively reasoned argument.  I suppose the Town/Gown ripost would be: “This is a Family town.  Get used to it, or go build in Merced.”

    The residents of Berkeley should see the squalor of Southside as a cautionary tale.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Not a fan of the Arpeggio building, but the hostile local climate to all development isn’t exactly helping things on southside either. 

  • TizziLish

    Other posts include links and details about how affordable housing is defined. Sadly, if a household is earning 60% of this area’s median income, it is hard to find homes to rent for less than the prices the Arpeggio will be charging for their affordable units. Lower-priced rental housing can be found in Berkeley, yes, indeed. Most such units are in high-crime neighborhoods and the housing is usually very dumpy.

    Not only does Berkeley apply a very high level of income to define what affordable housing is, then give away the right to build more floors (which equal more income to the building’s owner), but Berkeley Housing Authority is in the process of selling Berkeley’s very few public housing units to a private developer — a very wealthy real estate conglomerate. This is a major tragedy. The sale of public housing has been intense since the George W. Bush administration.

    People who have never been truly poor and ever had to rely on subsidized housing are lulled into thinking society provides for the poor when they hear the word ‘affordable’ used. Public housing accepts anyone, even those whose only income is panhandling or street busking.

    Most of Oakland’s public housing has now been sold.

    As public housing disappears, there is no where for the poorest citizens to go. This has been going on right before our eyes for many years now.

    Berkeley’s public housing was built, of course, using lots of public funds and the land was deed to be held in perpetuity for public housing. Yet Berkeley Housing Authority hired a real estate consulting firm, owned by one of its own board members (a conflict of interest!) who recommended BHA sell its public housing, allow the private developer to rehab the public housing — a rehab is sorely needed, tis true — and then the housing will be affordable.

    Affordable is very very different from public housing. If you are at the very bottom of the economic ladder, you used to be able — after years of wait list — be able to count on at least having a roof over your head. Where will such people go when affordable housing charges $900 for a studio?

    Watch The Grapes of Wrath, which depicts the hopeless poverty experienced by many during the Depression. Those days are coming — those days are already here for some. We just don’t see them so we don’t realize it’s happening.

    It galls me that BHA sold housing that was publicly funded, guaranteed to remain public housing in perpetuity but will soon become privately owned “affordable” housing.

    It’s not just the 1% that oppresses. We all collude when we vote for guys like Tom Bates.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    What alternatives do you propose and how do you propose to pay for them?

  • Anonymous

    And don’t forget, those paying $2,000 per month for a studio will be keeping the “Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System” solvent and Henry Cisneros in his limo and mansion (recall, he was a “man of the people” when he was Clinton’s HUD’s secretary.

    Meanwhile, those who need real “affordable” housing will remain screwed…

  • Toni

    Just to clarify the seeming conflict between our AMIs, which differ depending on the size of the family. The Alameda County AMI is $89,300 for a family of four in 2009 when the last City of Berkeley housing element was written. The AMI actually changes every year. When people hear “low income” they think of their own budgets and guess what it takes to qualify for a density bonus unit when this is actually determined by code.

  • Yer43

    The average person makes $25k a year so even if you were making $40k a year  you  still couldn’t afford to live in one of those apartments. Aspolutely insane and it’s only going to get worse…

  • onesmallhand

    What study or what population are you referring to when you say that the average person makes $25k a year?

    The median Alameda county income is: $65.5k

  • piapiabee

    “Studio” just means that there is not a designated bedroom. There is no mention of square footage. I’m guessing these are loft style units.

  • Lena

     I’ve talked to the real estate group and to clarify the prices it is $2,200 for a studio and $5,000 for the penthouse with a view.

  • Median household income.  but a median HOUSEHOLD (which would thus be median and likely involve two people working who are both midway//median through their careers
     and hence are also likely to have a couple of KIDS) are NOT living in a studio apartment or even happy living in one of those overpriced two bedrooms!