Thursday night, Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get its third look at the 16-story hotel planned downtown at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.
The 168-foot-tall building is set to include 336 hotel rooms, some retail, and about 11,000 square feet of conference space. A parking garage is planned on the second floor, with additional parking set to be allocated in the Center Street garage after its renovation is complete. In its prior iteration, the hotel had been set to reach 18 stories and include nearly 40 condominiums, which no longer appear in the plans.
Read more about the tall buildings proposed in downtown Berkeley.
Project representative Matt Taecker said Pyramid Hotel Group “took another look at things” and decided to take the condos out of the project, at 2129 Shattuck. As a result, the building height has been reduced by two stories and 12 feet.
“The decision was to kind of simplify things and increase the number of hotel rooms,” said Taecker.
This week’s preview before the Design Review Committee is another chance for the hotel group to get feedback from the city about how the plans are coming along.
Taecker said he hopes the panel will focus on the project’s lower floors during this go-round. As it stands, the plan is for the developer to first build a new one-story building adjacent to the Berkeley Art Museum, where Bank of America will move during construction. Once the hotel is complete, Bank of America will move into its permanent home on the corner, leaving the one-story building to become a restaurant.
JRDV Urban International, the architectural firm designing the hotel, has created several possible looks for the “streetwall,” the floors closest to the street level along Center and Shattuck, which will be presented to the DRC on Thursday.
Along Shattuck, according to a memo submitted by Taecker for this week’s meeting, a 44-foot-tall façade has been designed to fit in with “the cornice height of the more typically scaled buildings in the downtown. The architecture is expressed in a contextual way that engages the adjacent buildings along their respective streets.”
The parking area on the second floor, according to the memo, “is completely screened and integrated seamlessly” with the floors above and below it: “Materials and detailing will ensure that cars and headlights are never seen from the street.”
Along Center Street, the street-level façade will be composed of handset bricks, according to the memo. The development team has proposed lighting the façade at night to create “a playful urban destination and urban icon in downtown Berkeley.”
The design on Center could feature an “art cornice” — with translucent glass panels and “artistic LED lighting” — though more traditional alternatives will also be presented. The idea is for the storefront openings on the ground floor to fit in with the nearby storefronts in the area, despite the overall building height.
There’s also a corner plaza set to include a “coffee kiosk” with movable café seating and a bike share station.
Taecker said the city is still completing its zoning analysis following the removal of the condos from the plans, but that the development team hopes to come before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board in the fall to address several issues. The project’s environmental impact report, or EIR, could be complete by the end of the year.
The development team has made a verbal commitment to use union labor for construction, and allow hotel workers the option of organizing, too, Taecker said, though a written agreement has not yet been completed. He estimated it would likely take another 2½ years at least before the project is complete.
“The client’s very committed and excited about the project,” he said. “We’re very intent on delivering a project that most Berkeleyans would be very proud of. At the same time, there’s a lot of the process that we still need to go through.”
According to the staff report prepared for Thursday’s meeting, the Design Review Committee previously asked the project team to further differentiate the building’s tower from its east elevation; and continue “sculpting” its north elevation so that it would appear less “massive.” DRC members said quality materials would be important to have at such an important location downtown, and asked for a livelier color palette.
They also expressed concerns about how the second-level parking garage would work and look from the street, and weren’t sure about a loading dock planned for Shattuck Avenue, which they feared might negatively impact the pedestrian and street experience.
Thursday’s meeting is still considered a “preview” session, meaning no action is planned.
The Design Review Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 20, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. Meeting details and project documents are online here.
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