Category Archives: Architecture

Community effort may see Berkeley’s Oaks Theatre reopen with Bakesale Betty on board

The Oaks Theater at xxxx Solano Ave. has been empty for several years. New plans may see it reopen if a deal can ben reached. Photo: Ian Ransley
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The Oaks Theatre on Solano Avenue may have a future after all, after five years of sitting vacant. Jim Whitty, a Berkeley local and his non-profit group, From Little Acorns Grow, is working with Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services to lease and re-open the theater in what will be a true community effort if it succeeds.

Speaking at the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA) meeting Thursday night at the Thousand Oaks Baptist Church Auditorim, Whitty, a veteran Oakland firefighter and Secretary Treasurer of the Oakland Firefighters’ Union for the past ten years, said he was well down the path of negotiations with John and Kevin Gordon who were being very supportive of the initiative.

“The rental negotiations are up in the air, but we are not too far apart,” said Whitty who said he was well used to negotiating as a union leader. He is at the “letter of intent” stage, he said. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Honda hopes to take over Any Mountain space

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave.,the space now occupied by Any Mountain. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley Honda, which was displaced from its home at 2600 Shattuck Ave. in November, is making plans to move down the street into the building now occupied by Any Mountain, at 2777 Shattuck. Any Mountain has yet to find a new location in the city.

If Berkeley approves the auto dealership’s application, it would end a seven-year odyssey for one of Berkeley’s largest generators of sales tax. The dealership learned in 2008 that it had to leave its home of 40 years on Shattuck Avenue to make way for a mixed-use development called Parker Place. The dealership attempted to move to other locales in Berkeley, only to see them fall through. It is now renting temporary space at 2627 Shattuck Ave.

“It’s going to be Honda’s latest showroom design,” said Tim Beinke, the dealer/operator who owns the business with his father, Steve. “We have a lot of new products coming out. We have plug-in cars and a list of smaller vehicles.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley close to deal for long-empty Telegraph lot

Ken Sarachan, who owns multiple properties on Telegraph Avenue, bought 2501 Haste St. in 1994. The Berkeley Inn was located there until a fire destroyed it. The mural was recently removed. Photo: Ted Friedman
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UC Berkeley and property owner Ken Sarachan are close to a joint-venture development deal for the long-empty lot at the north-east corner of Haste and Telegraph, which means that new student housing might be in place there by August 2017.

“We are in negotiations, deep negotiations,” said Robert Lalanne, UC’s Vice-Chancellor for Real Estate. Lalanne said he would like to think they are getting very close to a deal.

The university would take over Sarachan’s entitlement of the proposed development for the site: a six-story Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan. The university would then turn over the project  to a developer, who would build the structure. Lalanne declined to name the developer as a contract had not been signed. … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players to create studio at old Serendipity Books

Shotgun Players are transforming the old Serendipity Books on University Avenue into a rehearsal space. Photo: Google Images
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players has purchased the building on University Avenue that once housed Serendipity Books and will turn it into a new rehearsal and shop space.

A large gift from an anonymous donor allowed Shotgun to buy the 5,200-square foot building at 1201 University (at San Pablo) in March 2014. The Board of Directors and other donors have contributed $1.6 million to renovate the space. Shotgun will now look to the broader community to raise an additional $175,000.

“I am humbled and awed by the outpouring of support from the Shotguns community,” Patrick Dooley, the theater’s artistic director, said in a press release. “The generosity of our supporters is truly inspiring. After years of being nomadic, Shotgun realized the secret to longevity is not just in great theatre, but also in long term investments like real estate.” … Continue reading »

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New 16-story downtown condo/hotel project to appeal to empty nesters, visiting professors

Jim Didion of Center Street LLC (left) and Richard Kelleher, CEO of Pyramid Hotels, are teaming up to construct a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The new developer of a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley plans to build up to 35 condominiums and include kitchens in every room so people can stay for extended periods of time.

The Pyramid Hotel Group has extensive experience constructing hotels near universities, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Richard M. Kelleher, who was in Berkeley this week to discuss the project with city officials and community activists. Many people who visit university towns are academics or family members who want to stay in the area for a long time, he said. The new hotel will cater to them, although there will also be guests who stay for short periods of time, he said.

The hotel will be built with union labor and staffed with union employees — part of Pyramid Hotel Group’s commitment to be a good community member, said Kelleher. … Continue reading »

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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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