Tag Archives: Berkeley Downtown Area Plan

Berkeley looks at public art fee for private developers

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The city of Berkeley is crafting a new law to require private developers of many buildings to spend 1% of their construction costs on public art.

Under a recommendation put forth by Mayor Tom Bates and approved in concept by the Berkeley City Council at its March 17 meeting, the “private percent for public art” legislation would apply to all new commercial and industrial buildings, and residential buildings with at least five units, except for projects in downtown Berkeley. The one-time fee would pay for publicly accessible art on-site, or the developer could instead pay into a new city pot for public art.

At the same meeting, council expanded the city’s definition of art to include installations, performance and social practice works, and other types of original displays. Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials seek feedback on ‘community benefits’

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 has launched a public discussion on what sort of benefits are required by developers who hope to construct tall buildings downtown, with two meetings focused on the topic in the next few weeks.

The conversation about “significant community benefits” generally comes up before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, but that panel has struggled to determine whether tall building proposals it has reviewed meet current city guidelines. That’s because those guidelines, set out within Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, are more of a menu of suggestions, rather than concrete items that can be checked off a list.

Crafters of that plan have said the city wanted to offer flexibility to developers to work with the community to come up with the right mix of benefits. But, so far, the lack of specificity has made it difficult for various stakeholders to agree on what developers should bring to the table.

Last week, council took public comment on the topic at its regular Tuesday night meeting, but did not itself much discuss the issue. Mayor Tom Bates — whose office is spearheading the new talks in collaboration with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore — announced a special council meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. for that discussion to take place.

Separately, Councilman Arreguín also has scheduled a workshop on the subject, from 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, in Live Oak Park’s Fireside Room. The workshop will focus on the general framework of community benefits, not specific projects, and attendees will be asked to rank the categories of benefits that matter most to them.  … 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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WeWork opens office space to downtown Berkeley

WeWork's office building in downtown Berkeley with newly painted murals by xxx. Photo: William Newton
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WeWork, which has been called the country’s leading co-working company and is expanding globally at a rapid rate, according to the business press, has opened in downtown Berkeley.

Monday, Feb. 2, the company opened a new raft of offices on the seventh floor of the building at 2120 University Ave. (at Shattuck Avenue). This followed the launch of two other floors, on the fifth and sixth stories, in early January. And passers-by won’t have failed to notice the vibrant murals that have appeared on two façades of the structure. They were created by New York-based artist Jason Woodside.

WeWork plans to roll out three more floors of space by June 1, at which point there will be 45,000 square feet of office space potentially housing about 600 people in the six-story building, said Aja Anderson, WeWork Berkeley‘s community manager. As a result, it has fast become the city’s largest co-working facility. … 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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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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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
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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. … Continue reading »

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Locals question Berkeley Plaza impact on theater, view

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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Residents came out en masse Thursday night to testify before Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board about possible impacts related to a large mixed-use project planned downtown on Harold Way.

The Residences at Berkeley Plaza, at Harold and Kittredge Street, would rise 18 stories and is set to include a tower reaching, all told, nearly 200 feet. It is slated to feature about 300 units, which could either be apartments or condominiums, as well as a new six-theater cinema complex, more than 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, and a 171-unit underground parking structure. … Continue reading »

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New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Now that Measure R, the initiative that aimed to impose stricter standards on tall buildings, has been defeated, the project to build a hotel downtown is back on track.

Developer Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC had stopped all design work on the hotel planned for the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Didion had contended that the requirements called for by Measure R would make the project financially infeasible.

But after Measure R was delivered a resounding defeat — No on R captured almost 74% of the vote, according to the most recent tally — work was set to resume, said Matthew Taecker, one of the hotel’s consultants. He said revisiting the design will be one of the team’s first tasks. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley temporarily blocks sale of main Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty. … 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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High-rise developer in Berkeley to use 100% union labor

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The developer behind a 180-foot-tall, mixed-use project planned in downtown Berkeley at 2211 Harold Way announced a commitment this week to use 100% union labor to construct The Residences at Berkeley Plaza.

According to Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, it’s the first agreement of its kind in Berkeley — between a private developer and labor — in at least 17 years.

Project developer HSR Berkeley Investments signed the labor agreement several weeks ago, after more than a year of discussion and negotiation, with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Alameda County. The group represents all 28 labor unions in the county.

The agreement will mean a livable wage, along with benefits including health care and sick leave, for an estimated 300 skilled workers. They will make, on average, $65 an hour, according to project documents. Construction for Berkeley Plaza is expected to take 2-3 years, and many of the workers hired must live in Berkeley or nearby, within the East Bay Green Corridor.

Rhoades said the agreement will cover everything “from digging the hole to doing the concrete and the steel, and including the first round of retail tenant work. It will result in a much better building, a much nicer streetscape, and a building whose systems work because of the union labor that will be putting it together.” … 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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