UC Berkeley holds open house about downtown high-rise

This parking lot, between Hearst Avenue and Berkeley Way, is slated to become a high-rise to replace Tolman Hall. Image: Google maps
This lot, between Hearst Avenue and Berkeley Way on Shattuck, is slated to become a high-rise for several Cal areas of study. Image: Google Maps

The University of California at Berkeley says it is moving forward with plans to build a high-rise in downtown Berkeley — for its education, psychology and public health areas of study — and will hold an open house about the project this week.

The Berkeley Way West academic building is set to reach 112 feet at Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue, and span 320,000 gross square feet in a lot along Shattuck from Berkeley Way north to Hearst Avenue. The area is now used as surface parking for UC Berkeley affiliates.

According to the few details that have been released thus far by the university, the building will reach up to 112 feet at its southwest corner, but will be “stepped lower” at the northern edge of the site at Hearst.

The city of Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted in 2012 after Berkeley voters endorsed its concepts in 2010, allows for the construction of three 180-foot-tall buildings, including a hotel, in Berkeley’s downtown core and outer core, and two 120-foot-high buildings. UC Berkeley has the right to build two additional 120-foot-tall structures.

Read more about tall buildings proposed in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage.


Design of the new building has been “guided by the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan, as well as the UC Berkeley 2020 Long Range Development Plan and Physical Design Framework,” according to a brief statement released earlier this week by the university.

Under the city's Downtown Area Plan, three 180-foot-tall buildings are allowed, as well as two 120-foot-tall buildings, in the core and outer core areas. The University of California is allowed to build two additional 120-foot-tall buildings of its own. Image: City of Berkeley
Under the city’s Downtown Area Plan, three 180-foot-tall buildings are allowed, as well as two 120-foot-tall buildings, in the core and outer core areas. The University of California is allowed to build two additional 120-foot-tall buildings of its own. Image: City of Berkeley

UC Berkeley principal planner Jennifer McDougall said images of what the building may look like will not be available until the open house, which is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 8, in the Energy Biosciences Building at 2150 Berkeley Way. Information will be available to view at 6 p.m., with a brief program to follow at 6:30 p.m.

McDougall said no specific details about the project could be made available prior to the meeting.

According to a statement released about the event, “the design and development team will be on hand at the open house to provide information and answer questions about the project. Light refreshments will be served.”

The building would house the Graduate School of Education and the Department of Psychology, which are currently in Tolman Hall. (The university described Tolman as “seismically challenged,” and it has been called one of the least safe buildings on campus.) The School of Public Health, which has been operating out of University Hall on an interim basis, would also be based at Berkeley Way West.

McDougall said by email that the city of Berkeley’s Design Review Committee has a hearing on the project scheduled for Jan. 15, and that the packet for that meeting should be available later this week.

Construction of Berkeley Way West is proposed to begin this summer, with anticipated occupancy by fall 2017, according to the university.

More information will be provided at the meeting. Questions can be directed to the campus planning office by email at planning@berkeley.edu, or by phone to Jennifer McDougall at 510-642‐7720.

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