New building proposed for Sequoia site on Telegraph Ave.

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A rendering of the 42-unit residential and commercial building proposed for the site of the former Sequoia Apartment building at 2441 Haste St. at Telegraph. Source: Kahn Design Associates

The owners of the property at 2441 Haste St. at Telegraph, scene of a devastating fire in Nov. 2011 that destroyed the five-story Sequoia Apartments, have submitted a proposal to the city of Berkeley to build a new 42-unit, 43,000 sq ft apartment building.

The project would also include retail spaces intended for two restaurants that burned down that night: Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar & Grill.

The proposal, which was submitted to the city by Kenneth and Gregory Ent on Friday, Feb. 22, would be designed by Berkeley architects Kahn Design Associates, working with developer ROEM.

The design calls for a U-shaped building around a courtyard — the 1916 Sequoia building also had a courtyard — with the entrances to the two restaurants on Telegraph, as before. Access to the apartments would be through a gated forecourt on Haste.


While the overall look of the new building would be modern, the application says the commercial façade “with its clerestories, wainscots, and canopies” would reflect “a pattern proportion and rhythm consistent with the Old Sequoia and other traditional storefronts along the Avenue.”

The old building was about 65 ft high and the new one will extend 58 ft at its highest point, according to the submission. (Read the application.)

Kahn Design Associates, let by architect Charles Kahn, has designed many public, commercial and residential buildings in Berkeley including 2130 Center Street (the former Act 1 & Act II Theater), Bauman College, The Callaj Building, Berkeley Plaza (near Trader Joe’s) and the Berkeley Bike Station.

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The Sequoia Apartment Building on Nov. 19, the day after a catastrophic fire raged through the building. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The fire that erupted at the Sequoia Apartments on the night of Nov. 18 was determined to have been caused by an electrical fault in the elevator machinery. The damage was so extensive that the building had to be demolished later that month. Plans, suggested in Feb. 2012, for a temporary resurrection of the two popular restaurants on the site were never brought to fruition.

The intersection of Telegraph and Haste may see more development in the foreseeable future, after suffering decades of neglect. Another proposal — for the north-east corner site — is currently going through the planning application process, and one for the south-west corner was submitted to the city last year.

Both developments are proposed by Ken Sarachan, who owns several properties on Telegraph, and is the owner of Rasputin Records among other holdings.

Renderings of Mad Monk, a live entertainment and dining spot proposed for the old Cody’s space on Telegraph. Source: Avila Design

Sarachan recently submitted revised plans for a dining and live entertainment venue called Mad Monk to go into 2554 Telegraph, the space occupied by Cody’s Books for many years.

The proposal calls for a restaurant, a bar serving distilled spirits, a retail space, a flower shop, as well as a ‘to-go’ counter on Telegraph. The greenhouse part of the current structure which is on the corner of the site would be rebuilt with a second-floor exterior deck for outdoor eating. Greg Powell, Senior Planner at the city of Berkeley, said the project has completed its process through planning and just need the results of a police review — which is necessitated by the spirits permit. It is expected to go before the Zoning Adjustments Board on March 28. (Read the application.)

Sarachan’s other outstanding application is to build at 2433 Haste a Moorish palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan, designed by architect Kirk Peterson. The project, known as “La Fortaleza” (as in “fortress” or “stronghold”), was submitted to the city last year, but there are several hurdles to clear before the building could be either approved or built. The city issued a lawsuit against Sarachan in Jan. 2012 for outstanding debts. One existing building on the site — the former Wicked Zone tattoo parlor — needs to be demolished, which requires a Landmarks Preservation Commission review. Another property at the site, the landmarked Woolsey House, has to be relocated. Commercial realtor John Gordon has expressed an interest in taking on the Woolsey House move. (Read the application.) The vacant lot has been the scene of blight, including rats, for years.

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Telegraph Avenue elevation design for a new building at 2501 Haste, which would be partly clad in rock. Courtesy: Kirk E. Peterson & Associates

Other changes to Telegraph Avenue more broadly include the redesign of Sproul Plaza, for which construction has recently begun, and possible outcomes of improvements being spurred by the Telegraph Avenue Property and Business Improvement District. In April 2012 a volunteer group of architects, urban planners and transit specialists alled Berkeley Design Advocates organized a charrette to brainstorm ideas to revitalize the street.

On Thursday, the Mayor’s Office is holding an interactive community workshop to discuss the future of Telegraph Avenue. The workshop will include presentations from city staff and the public will have an opportunity to brainstorm solutions and identify goals. The meeting is Thursday, Feb. 28, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Willard Middle School.

Related:
New Sproul design ideas provide optimism for Telegraph [11.29.12]
Can Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue get it mojo back? [04.18.12]
Imagining a future for Telegraph Avenue without blinders [04.11.12]
Telegraph fire site owner plans for temporary resurrection [02.06.12]
Berkeley’s 95-year-old Sequoia Building is brought down [11.29.11]
“Largest fire since 1991″ leaves many locals homeless [11.19.11]
Urban think tank: Student visions for blighted Telegraph lot [10.03.11]
City hands ultimatum to Sarachan on vacant Telegraph lot [09.07.11]
The rats of Telegraph Avenue (video) [01.28.11]

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