Category Archives: Real estate

Two historic Berkeley homes get a makeover

The John Woolley house is the blue-gray one and the Ellen Blood House is the yellow one. The owners, architect, and builder worked hard to restore the turreted window on the Woolley House. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two historic Berkeley homes with a combined age of 263 years have been given a complete makeover, and their doors were opened Tuesday to show off their shiny new parts.

The John Woolley House, first built on Telegraph Avenue in 1876, and the Ellen Blood House, constructed on Durant Avenue in 1891, were moved in 2014 to a new location on Regent Street and Dwight Way. John Gordon of Gordon Commercial Realty and his wife, Janis Mitchell, who bought the homes for $1 each, restored, renovated, and expanded the two houses using as much original material as possible. They also added a floor to the Woolley house. Gone are two decaying, although historic homes. In their place are five gleaming apartments with all the trappings of 21st century living: sleek appliances, gas fireplaces with marble mantles, and high-tech flooring. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley condo project set for latest review

1951 Shattuck Ave. Image: the bay architects
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A 12-story building set to include 92 condominiums and nearly 12,000 square feet of commercial space could get its penultimate review from Berkeley’s Design Review Committee tonight, Aug. 20.

The 120-foot-tall building would, if approved, take the place of one- and two-story buildings that currently exist on the block, housing several local businesses, including Berkeley Vacuum, the Missing Link annex and the Cutaway hair salon.

The project, at 1951-1975 Shattuck Avenue, at Berkeley Way, would be just north of the approved but not yet built Acheson Commons, and across the street from Berkeley Way West, a proposed UC Berkeley project that is slated to house several departments for the campus.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The project could become one of seven new tall buildings downtown from 120 to 180 feet tall approved by voters during the Downtown Area Plan process in recent years. Two of those sites are reserved for UC Berkeley.

The San Francisco-based Nasser family first submitted its plans for 1951 Shattuck in December 2013. In June 2014, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board offered preliminary feedback to the project team. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley hotel project drops condos; at DRC this week

The hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
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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. Continue reading »

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Harold Way project gets Landmarks Commission approval

Some critics of 2211 Harold Way say the models and drawings produced by the project team are inaccurate. Here, they look at a model and compare the height of Harold Way to other tall buildings downtown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A controversial mixed-use project proposed in downtown Berkeley won an important permit Thursday night after a 6-3 vote from Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The commission had been tasked with deciding whether to grant 2211 Harold Way a structural alteration permit, which it needs to carry out excavations on the project site. The 18-story building is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

More than 60 people turned out to Thursday night’s meeting, including more than 50 local residents who spoke forcefully against the project, and about six who spoke in favor. Many project opponents made their disapproval known by hissing and jeering at the handful of speakers who said Berkeley needs more housing, and that Harold Way will be a good project for the city. Commission Chair Christopher Linvill repeatedly had to ask the crowd to quiet down and give the project supporters their chance to speak. The public comment period lasted roughly three hours. … Continue reading »

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Developers hope to keep Pyramid a beer destination

Retail West, Inc. plans to divide up the Pyramid Alehouse building into several smaller breweries and retail spaces. Image: Retail West, Inc.
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Many local beer drinkers were surprised to learn of the abrupt closure of West Berkeley’s long-running Pyramid Alehouse last month. The closure was part of a consolidation effort on the part of Pyramid’s parent company, North American Breweries, which says it is shifting focus to its Portland and Seattle locations. Now, Retail West Inc., the group behind the Gilman District’s recent spate of development, hopes to transform the 114,000-square-foot building into a “collective campus of makers, food producers, brewers and distillers,” said Matt Holmes, a principal at the firm.

Retail West is collaborating with the Oakland-based real estate group Colliers International on the project, which will potentially divide the building into a series of smaller breweries (with associated tasting rooms), distilleries and retail spaces. Holmes also plans to build out a shared kitchen for up to 40 small food businesses, which could then sell their wares in the retail area. Retail West is currently in talks with two breweries who are interested in leasing part of the space. … Continue reading »

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Friends of Adeline: ‘Our future shall be determined by us’

Community members discussed issues and concerns related to the city's Adeline Corridor revitalization plan during the Friends of Adeline's third community forum, held at the Black Repertory Theatre on Saturday morning. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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Tensions arose Saturday between community members and city staff at a Friends of Adeline forum focused on Berkeley’s Adeline Corridor revitalization project, with members of the group expressing doubt about whether the city will truly prioritize the needs of the neighborhoods.

Held at the Black Repertory Group’s theater on Adeline Street in South Berkeley, longtime residents of the area as well as local activists, business owners and organizers gathered to make sure their voices are heard in the upcoming months. Since January, residents have expressed concerns that the Adeline Corridor project would gentrify the area, threatening the diversity and culture of the historic neighborhood.

Attendees of the forum also addressed concerns over proposed developments, such as a 6-story residential project at Adeline and Russell that has spurred growing comments of gentrification and the “pushing out” of the area’s remaining black residents. About 100 people attended the meeting.

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Carpenters union protests new Berkeley balconies

The Varsity in downtown Berkeley is nearly complete. Photo: Courtesy of the Varsity Berkeley
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Protesters from the local carpenters union set up a large display on Shattuck Avenue on Tuesday to question the construction standards of balconies at a new downtown Berkeley apartment building that’s nearing completion.

Scott Littlehale, spokesman for the Hayward-based Carpenters Union Local 713, said the community should be paying close attention to building standards for projects, like the new Varsity Berkeley, that were approved by the city prior to the passage of urgency ordinances last month by the Berkeley City Council that mandate stricter building standards for balconies. Littlehale said his group has concerns about “generally deteriorating standards” for construction around the Bay Area, and said the group plans to return Wednesday to continue to demonstrate.

Project developer William Schrader Jr. told Berkeleyside on Tuesday afternoon that his building, Varsity Berkeley — formerly known as The Durant — is safe, and that the accusations being levied against it are false. He outlined the steps he has taken in recent months to ensure that his building’s 31 balconies are secure and can be used with confidence. Schrader said his building plans, which he has adjusted, have been reviewed and approved by the city following the Library Gardens collapse in June. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley plans ‘very efficient garage that people will be happy to come to’

Designs are coming along for an updated Center Street garage. Image: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects
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As plans proceed for an updated municipal garage on downtown Berkeley’s Center Street, project details are firming up, and the plan for where people can expect to park while construction is underway has been released.

The city is planning to demolish its circa 1958 5-story parking structure at 2025 Center and replace it with a modern 8-story structure featuring a double-helix design to halve the time it takes drivers to exit the garage.

Last Thursday, July 23, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board learned about the newest iteration of the plans for the project, and gave feedback to city staff about several issues they still hope to see addressed. The project is set to return to the board Aug. 27 for a vote.

Read more about parking in Berkeley.

Earlier this month, the city’s Design Review Committee gave the project a favorable review. The city’s Civic Arts Commission is also on board, and is helping determine the process the city will use to select public art — described as colored LED lighting on the façade — that will appear on site. Last Thursday, zoning board commissioners said they were largely pleased with how the project is coming along.

“I’ve seen this project four times and it gets better and better,” said Commissioner Richard Christiani. “Generally it’s a very well-thought-out building. It’s nice to see so much attention given to a structure like this.”Continue reading »

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New plan calls for 10 theaters at 2211 Harold Way

The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to build 10 new theaters in the proposed complex. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to increase the number of movie theaters in the 302-unit building in downtown Berkeley to 10 — but detractors say the changes do not go far enough.

After discussions with Ted Mundorf, the CEO of Landmark, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investments has submitted a new set of plans with the 10 theaters. Previously, the number of theaters proposed had ranged from zero to nine.

The current plan, which still needs city approval, would place the box office by the sidewalk on Shattuck Avenue, much like it currently is. There would be four theaters on the street level. Patrons would take an escalator, stairs or an elevator one flight down to the six other theaters. There would also be bathrooms, a bar, a lounge and a snack bar on the bottom level. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors say affordability will be key to proposed Adeline Street project

Conceptual plans for 2902 Adeline, which the developer says will likely change as the project goes through the entitlement process. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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About 40 people crammed into the community room at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library on Wednesday night to hear about a new project proposed at Adeline and Russell streets, and offer feedback to the developer.

The project — which would replace AW Pottery at 2908 Adeline — is in its very early stages, and has not yet been submitted to the city of Berkeley, said developer Cody Fornari of San Francisco-based real estate firm Realtex. Fornari said the South Berkeley property, at 2902 Adeline St., is currently in escrow and has not officially changed hands.

Realtex is also working on a proposal to construct a 7-story building on Telegraph Avenue — where restaurants including Norikonoko and Finfiné have been in operation for more than two decades. The company also won approval last year for a 5-story building at University and McGee avenues, but has not yet broken ground.

Throughout the info session, many in attendance expressed concern about the project — still in the “conceptual phase” —  which is currently set to include 47 residential units, eight live-work units and 18 parking spaces. The building is proposed to reach 6 stories, or 65 feet tall. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves new laws for building safety

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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After a deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley, the City Council voted Tuesday night to change several laws to improve building safety throughout the city.

Council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected within the next six months, and every following three years.

City planning director Eric Angstadt said 6,000 buildings in Berkeley would be affected by the new program, which he said covers “anything exposed to weather that could have water intrusion, [and] yield deterioration.”

An investigation by city building inspectors identified wood rot as the sole contributing factor in the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s say ‘yes’ to a vibrant downtown Berkeley

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As a long-time resident and member of the Downtown Area Planning Committee I have participated in ten years of planning, debate, initiatives, referendums and heated viewpoints on the future of our downtown. After two decisive votes, the hugely popular new plan is finally underway with exciting new buildings proposed that will contribute greatly to achieving our community vision for Downtown.

Now is the time to listen to the 74% of Berkeley voters who want a vibrant downtown and to say YES to the … Continue reading »

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