Local business

Berkeley Chamber awards first Visionary awards

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Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong introduces the Visionary Awards at the Skydeck on Monday night. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Scientist Steven Visco and developer Patrick Kennedy received the inaugural Visionary Awards from the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce on Monday night in a casual ceremony at the startup accelerator Skydeck in downtown Berkeley.

Chamber CEO Polly Armstrong said the awards were designed for “those individuals with both the imagination and persistence to innovate in the City of Berkeley. Our town has a long history of activism and is proud of its heritage. However, our colorful history has also fostered a cautious if not skeptical view of change and the role that local businesses play in the economic health of the city.”

The awards drew a healthy crowd from Berkeley’s business community, as well as political leaders and institutional heads. Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, School District Superintendent Donald Evans and Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan were among those at the ceremony.

PolyPlus Battery co-founder Steven Visco. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

PolyPlus Battery co-founder Steven Visco. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Visco is CEO, CTO and co-founder of PolyPlus Battery Company, which has been in Berkeley since 1991. He’s also a guest scientist in the materials science division of Berkeley Lab. PolyPlus is working to commercialize lithium-water, lithium-air and lithium-sulfur batteries it developed, which last far longer per gram of weight than other commercially available batteries. The hope is that Polyplus’ technologies will replace the lithium-ion batteries used in, for example, the current generation of electric cars.

PolyPlus and its 27 employees are based in west Berkeley.

Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests has developed housing, live-work space and commercial property, with a particularly concentration of projects around downtown Berkeley. Panoramic sold its portfolio of seven rental properties to Equity Residential in 2007 for $146 million, the largest real estate transaction in Berkeley history. More recently Panoramic has been working on micro apartment projects in San Francisco, which it calls SmartSpace.

Berkeleyside’s Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas is two days of provocative thinking, inspiring speakers, workshops, and a big party — all in downtown Berkeley in October. Read all about it, be part of it. Register on the Uncharted website.

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  • EBGuy

    How about an interview with one of the visionaries…. You can ask Kennedy when (and if) they’ll break ground on the site at 2711 Shattuck. I’m viewing this more as a lifetime achievement award as he hasn’t built anything over here recently.

  • guest

    >Patrick Kennedy
    I stopped right there.

  • Bardot2000

    Developing real estate – visionary?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Patrick Kennedy was the first person in decades to build privately developed housing in downtown. His building at Hearst and Oxford was built in the 1980s, if I remember correctly. Since then, we have had many similar mixed-use projects in downtown and on major streets.

    I think Patrick Kennedy does deserve to be called a visionary, as the person who saw the value of this sort of project before other developers did. Today, most people take it for granted that this sort of project is a good thing, and many developers are building this sort of project, but he led the way at a time when it was such an unconventional idea that banks were reluctant to finance it.

  • EBGuy

    Go back in a time machine. When no one was building in Berkeley, he did. I know a couple of disabled folks who have a place to live in Berkeley because of his projects

  • guest

    Developing real estate =/= visionary


  • Charles_Siegel

    Of course developing real estate can be visionary.

    An early example is Raymond Unwin’s Letchworth, which inspired the garden city movement.

    A more recent example is Andres Duany’s Seaside, which inspired the New Urbanism.

  • Cinema Preservation Society

    Panoramic Interests: killed my local indie non-profit movie house, the Fine Arts Cinema, which was run by Keith Arnold (appointed general manager of the SF Castro Theater in 2011). The unfinished commercial space in the Fine Arts building then remained an empty space with gravel for a floor and a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling for many years. I haven’t been by the space recently, so for all I know, there’s still a section of it unfinished and unfilled. If P Kennedy had truly invested in the quality of living in the Berkeley downtown area –not just housing profits– he would have provided the FA Cinema with a theater in the new building.

  • twill monkey

    Too bad Kennedy’s vision didn’t extend to quality construction. He didn’t do what he did out of vision for affordable housing, he did what he did out of a vision for enormous profit. He pushed to get what he wanted, the City kinda-sorta pushed back. Otherwise he got pretty much what he wanted.