Category Archives: Architecture

Downtown hotel to feature condos, conference center

A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
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The developer of the proposed 16-story hotel on Center Street and Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley has nixed the idea of having office space in the building, but will instead include a conference center and condominiums, along with hotel rooms.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC is also bringing in the Pyramid Hotel Group as a financial backer for the project at 2129 Shattuck Ave., according to a recent press release. Pyramid, which currently runs the Berkeley Marina Hotel (officially known as Doubletree by Hilton Berkeley Marina) and formerly operated the Claremont Hotel, will work with Center Street Partners through the entitlement process and to develop the hotel. Didion will stay on as managing partner, according to the press release. … Continue reading »

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New Safeway on College Avenue opens to crowds

A new 45,000-square foot Safeway opened on College Ave. on Jan. 15. Photo: Celia McCarthy
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Hundreds of people jammed into the spanking new Safeway store on College Avenue on Thursday. Most were there to gawk at the shiny surfaces or taste a variety of free samples, but plenty of people were there to shop, happy to have a large grocery store back in the neighborhood.

The new store is 45,000 square feet and cost about $35 million to build, according to Chris Pattillo, chair of the Oakland Planning Commission, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store employs about 160 people, and 65 of those union jobs are new, she said.

“We’re excited,” Bernard Hardy, Safeway’s vice president of retail operations told the crowd that had assembled for the in-store speeches. “Tell your neighbors we’re back. We’re excited about being back in the neighborhood.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Zoning Board considers community benefits of proposed downtown high-rise

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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As Berkeley officials grappled with what the concept of “community benefits” actually means, the developer of the 18-story high rise at 2211 Harold Way announced at a Jan. 8 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board that he is willing to financially assist both the Habitot Children’s Museum and Boss, (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) as well as other organizations who must  relocate when the building is constructed.

Joseph Penner, head of Hill Street Investments of Los Angeles, also announced that Landmark Theaters had redesigned its plans for new theaters in the complex. There will now be nine theaters instead of the six theaters previously announced. Landmark has decided it will no longer include stadium seating in the theaters, which frees up room for additional theaters. (There are currently 11 theaters in the Shattuck Cinema complex.) … Continue reading »

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Locals worry new Cal high-rise will reduce parking

Berkeley Way West as seen from Shattuck Avenue. Photo: WRNS Studio/UC Berkeley
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Some Berkeley residents and Cal employees are worried a new UC Berkeley high-rise set to be built downtown might create parking issues.

The concerns were voiced at an open-house meeting to view and discuss the project, held Thursday in Cal’s Energy Biosciences Building at 2150 Berkeley Way.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The Berkeley Way West academic building, set to reach 112 feet tall in some sections, will be built on top of an existing parking lot, exacerbating the tight parking situation for UC employees. UC Berkeley already demolished one main parking structure, the Oxford Way and Addison Street parking lot, in 2013 to make room for the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and plans to build a new aquatics center on top of the Tang Center parking lot on Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The former Rivoli Theatre

Former Rivoli Theatre, 1941 San Pablo Avenue.  Photo: John Storey
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I venture to say that most people who have driven by the 99¢ Only Stores on San Pablo Avenue just north of University Avenue have never stopped and gone inside. I further venture to say that most people who have shopped at the 99¢ Only Stores have never stopped and looked up. Those who stop and those who look up are in for a quirky treat.

The 99¢ Only Stores at 1941 San Pablo is the former home of the Rivoli Theatre, built in 1924-1925. It seated 1,402 and changed shows four times a week. As a result of changing movie-going habits, the Rivoli first limited screenings to weekends, then closed as a movie theater in the 1950s. Since then, it has been a Long’s Drugs, a Smart and Final grocery store, and now – a 99¢ Only Store. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Art Museum’s iconic home closes after 44 years

Berkeley Art Museum closing in Berkeley, California
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On Sunday, hundreds of people swarmed through every nook and cranny, every cantilevered balcony and ramp, within the concrete hulk of the Berkeley Art Museum at 2626 Bancroft Way. They came to say goodbye to a building that has hosted innumerable highly regarded exhibitions over four decades, as well as art installations, fashionable events, and parties.

Built in 1970, and designed by architect Mario Ciampi during the brief reign of Brutalist architecture, the UC Berkeley-owned museum has as many detractors as fans. In his closing speech, BAM/PFA director Lawrence Rinder expressed both his fondness for the building and the occasional frustration of dealing with its constraints. The building has been deemed seismically unsound, and a brand new museum is being built in its stead. The new BAM/PFA, designed by New York’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is set to open in January, 2016 on the site of a former Cal printing press in downtown Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? From Lucky’s to Amoeba at 2455 Telegraph Avenue

1990 postcard from the collection of Tom Dalzell
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The quirky-looking building on the southeast corner of Telegraph and Haste, now Amoeba Music, has a colorful history that illustrates several chapters in Berkeley’s proud, independent history.

The building at 2455 Telegraph started life as Lucky’s Store No. 18.

It served the south campus neighborhood for several decades. In February 1964, the campus chapter of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality) took action against Lucky Store 18 in an effort to pressure Lucky into hiring African-Americans. The actions included picketing and the “shop-in,” in which nicely dressed CORE members filled shopping carts with groceries but then refused to pay for the groceries until Lucky ended its discriminatory practices.

After ten days of picketing and shop-ins, Lucky signed an agreement covering its Bay Area stores, promising to end racial discrimination in its hiring practices. Shortly after that, it closed Store No. 18 on Telegraph. They blamed a high degree of shoplifting on the decision to close, but it is difficult to believe that there wasn’t some degree of retaliation for the shop-ins.

The next business to open at 2455 Telegraph was the Espresso Forum, one of the first two espresso shops on Telegraph. … Continue reading »

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State court hears Mitch Kapor Berkeley home case

New-pic-of-Kapor-house
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The long-running saga of philanthropist and Lotus founder Mitch Kapor’s attempt to build a new home in North Berkeley landed at the California Supreme Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday this week.

At the Dec. 2 hearing, the Court heard arguments on whether the rules that exempt most proposed single-family homes from undergoing an environmental impact report (EIR) should apply to the proposal by Kapor, and his wife Freada Kapor Klein, to build a new home with a 10-car garage at 2707 Rose St.

According to Bob Egelko, the Chronicle’s courts reporter, at the one-hour hearing Susan Brandt-Hawley, a lawyer for the Berkeley Hillside Preservation group, re-iterated arguments that have been presented to Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (which originally approved the project in January 2010), and the Alameda County Superior Court, which subsequently denied an appeal on the case.

Brandt-Hawley said that building a “huge home” in a “landslide zone,” which will also require extensive work to widen the roadway, should amount to unusual circumstances requiring environmental review. She cited testimony by the group’s expert witness, engineer Lawrence Karp. … Continue reading »

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Deal to buy Post Office fizzles; police clear encampment

Tents on the front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Thursday. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The proposal by Berkeley developers Hudson MacDonald to buy the downtown Berkeley Post Office has fallen through after they were unable to reach agreement with the Post Office on a deal.

Meanwhile, police from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service prompted an orderly clearance of parts of the makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main Post Office Thursday morning. Protesters, who call themselves Berkeley Post Office Defenders, and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been camped around the building for four weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, officers provided protesters with a list of federal regulations and criminal statutes that prohibit the encampment. No arrests were made.  … Continue reading »

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Historic house trucked across People’s Park to new home

Corner Dwight/Regent. Moving into placer. Photo: Ted Friedman
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After decades of painstaking planning, a historic south Berkeley house was moved this weekend, trucked across People’s Park to its new home.

Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, the 138-year-old John Woolley house at 2509 Haste St. was hoisted one block south to 2506 Dwight St., the site of a newly developing cluster of Berkeley historic homes.

The move is part of a deal that saves the house, a city-designated landmark, while opening up its site at the corner of Haste and Telegraph Avenue for development.

“I’m glad to see it moved and preserved. It’s a significant early house in the Southside neighborhood,” said Anthony Bruce, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Architectural Historical Association (BAHA), noting that he was speaking for himself and not the organization. … Continue reading »

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Exclusive: Local developer Hudson McDonald in contract to buy downtown Berkeley Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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After weeks of silence, Berkeley developer Hudson McDonald has acknowledged that it is the company that is negotiating with the USPS to buy the main Berkeley Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

If successful, Hudson McDonald, which is best known for the construction of the Trader Joe’s building on University and MKL Jr. Way, said it plans to restore the 1914 building and develop the back for retail operations while offering the Post Office the opportunity of continuing to use the front lobby for postal services.

“There is a lot to be determined,” Chris Hudson, co-principal with Evan McDonald of the developer, said Tuesday. “But we want to preserve and restore the building, including retrofitting it, and we are having a conversation with the post office about them being tenant in the front part.” Currently about 80% of the building is empty.

Hudson said the Post Office had received several offers for the building but that Hudson McDonald was the only bidder in negotiation with USPS. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Democracy, transparency and Measure R

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Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:

“In the end, support was overwhelming as eight of nine Council members adopted a new Downtown Area Plan … but what a long, strange trip it has been. The 2012 ‘DAP’ was forged from the crucible of Berkeley’s special style of community decision-making — fueled by passionate debate across almost 200 public meetings, … everyone … Continue reading »

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Berkeley city attorney: Main post office may have sold

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The Berkeley city attorney has informed the City Council he believes someone has purchased the downtown U.S. post office at 2000 Allston Way, and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale.

A letter to that effect was leaked to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which published it on Thursday.

Zach Cowan, Berkeley’s city attorney, told Berkeleyside he could not share the letter he sent to council since it was privileged attorney-client communication. But Cowan said the version on the Planet website was accurate.

“It is my conclusion that at a minimum a buyer has been chosen, and that it is likely that there is at least a letter of understanding in place, if not a contract and perhaps an open escrow,” Cowan wrote to council, according to the Daily Planet.Continue reading »

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