Developer of downtown Berkeley hotel offers ‘tapered’ tower; hopes for quick design review

The new plans for the 18-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: JDRV Urban Architects
The new plans for the 18-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Ave. Photo: JRDV Architects

Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get an early peek this week of new, revised plans for the high-rise hotel on Shattuck Avenue and Center Street — part of the developers’ push to get the project through the planning process quickly.

The plan just submitted shows an 18-story building, rather than 16-story hotel, although both the new and old designs called for structures 180-feet high, according to the documents sent to the city. There will be 254 hotel rooms, all with bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. There will be 30 condominiums on six floors (floors 13-18), a restaurant, a bar, a new Bank of America branch, and two lobbies fronting Center Street.

The project at 2129 Shattuck Ave. will also contain 14,000 square feet of conference space, although the largest component of that will be a 6,000-square-foot patio on the third floor adjacent to a 5,000-square foot indoor conference room. There also will be a 2,000-square-foot “Blue and Gold” room on the 12th floor, right next to a fitness studio, and another conference room on the ground floor.

The hotel will have 94 parking spaces — about half of what is required — and lease the other spaces. The developer, Pyramid Hotel Group, plans to rent spaces temporarily in a UC Berkeley-owned parking lot on Addison Street.


Public open house set for March 2

The plans that the developers are showing the Design Review Committee on Thursday, Feb. 19, are preliminary and will probably change with time, according to Matt Taecker, whose Taecker Planning and Design is helping with the entitlement process. The idea is to ask Design Review for early input, he said. There also will be a public meeting to gather input on the design on Monday, March 2, from 5-7 p.m. at the Marsh Theater, 2120 Allston Way.

Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC first proposed the hotel in 2012, although plans were suspended while Berkeley residents voted on Measure R, which would have added requirements to the project. In January, Didion announced he had formed a partnership with the Pyramid Hotel Group, one of the largest independent hotel developers in the country. These new plans are the result of that partnership.

In an interview with Berkeleyside in early February, Richard M. Kelleher, CEO of the Pyramid Hotel Group, said he hoped to break ground by the end of the year. To achieve that accelerated timeline, the developers are also seeking early direction on community benefits for the project, although they also ask that the “intrinsic benefits associated with a high-rise hotel with conference rooms deserve to be considered toward this requirement.”

They suggest that the Zoning Adjustments Board form a subcommittee to work with them on a community benefits package, whose work would take place concurrently with the design review process. That way, proposed community benefits could be incorporated into the hotel design earlier rather than later.

Read about more real-estate developments in Berkeley.

The developers make clear in the documents they believe that just by having the hotel in the downtown is a significant community benefit.

“2129 Shattuck will play a pivotal role in making downtown Berkeley into a more vibrant and complete regional destination,” reads a portion of the document. “The project will release untapped synergies with local cultural uses, businesses, and UC Berkeley. 2129 Shattuck will significantly strengthen downtown Berkeley economically. Hotel guests and office employees will support surrounding businesses and cultural destinations – spending tens of thousands of dollars each day and encouraging a wider variety of downtown offerings. Foot traffic from the project will spill out onto surrounding streets, and make them more active and inviting.”

Kelleher, whose Pyramid Hotel Group manages DoubleTree Berkeley Marina, and managed the Claremont Hotel for about seven years, said the company would use union labor to construct the property, and union members to staff it.

A better definition of community benefits

Figuring out what community benefits developers should contribute is proving to be a difficult issue. The Downtown Area Plan adopted by the Berkeley City Council in 2012 mandated community benefits for all buildings over 75-feet tall, but was not specific about what they should be, although the council laid out guidelines.

Members of the Zoning Adjustments Board have expressed frustration that they are the ones left to figure out the specific benefits rather than having a clear set of guidelines from council. The issue came up Jan. 8 when the zoning board last looked at the community benefits offered by Joseph Penner of Hill Street Investments, who hopes to build a 180-feet-tall apartment complex adjacent to Hotel Shattuck Plaza at 2211 Harold Way. It will be known as the Residences at Berkeley Plaza.

Mayor Tom Bates said recently that he thinks council, not the zoning board, needs to come up with a community benefits package for the Residences at Berkeley Plaza. If it is done right, those guidelines can be applied to other projects, he said.

“Pass that to the city council and let us grapple with it,” said Bates.

Bates said he and his staff are surveying what requirements other cities have for developers, and plans to present that information to council. Bates said he hopes council will step into the void soon and better define what a community benefits package should look like. But it probably won’t be on the city council agenda for at least a month or more.

“My hope is we can use the benefits — whatever is agreed upon — to be applied to future projects,” he said.

Hotel project to be constructed in two phases

The developers plan to construct their hotel in two stages. They will initially build a one-story building on the parking lot on Center Street adjacent to the current Bank of America branch. (The bank owns the property). When it is completed, the bank will move there temporarily while the developer builds the high-rise hotel. When that is completed, the bank branch will move back into the high-rise, in a prominent spot that juts out into the corner, according to the initial design submitted to the DRC. Then a restaurant will open in the Center Street spot.

The low-profile building will be the same scale as the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive now under construction on Oxford Way.

The Center Street frontage view of the hotel: the project puts a one-story mass next to the low-rise BAM/PFA, and steps the hotel floors back 50 feet along three-quarters of the frontage. Image:
The Center Street frontage view of the hotel: the project puts a one-story building next to the low-rise BAM/PFA, and steps the hotel floors back 50 feet along three-quarters of the frontage. Image: JRDV Architects

The developers also plan to keep this small-scale feeling around most of the project by constructing shorter façades along Shattuck Avenue, and massing the high-rise section of the building in the center of the lot.

The developer of 2129 Shattuck Ave. has proposed this timeline to complete the project.
The developer of 2129 Shattuck Ave. has proposed this timeline to complete the project.

The new plans, like the old ones, will require a use permit, but one of the previous plan’s most controversial aspects has been redesigned. When Center Street Partners submitted its first design, in March 2012, the tower was going to be 220 feet on the diagonal. Now the architect, JRDV Architects of Oakland, has made the tower 165 feet on the diagonal. The top will now be “tapered” and will not impact the view from the Campanile or other protected views, according to documents submitted to the DRC.

“The proposed width of the upper stories is significantly less than was indicated in the proposal submitted in 2012,” according to the new documents.

Kelleher, the Pyramid Hotel Group CEO, said in early February that he hoped to break ground by the end of the year. A more specific timetable, submitted with the preliminary design, suggests that the developers hope to finish the EIR by the end of 2015. That may be ambitious. Berkeley hired a consultant for the EIR of the Residences at Berkeley Plaza in August or September 2013. The final EIR will not be completed until March 2015, according to Katie Gladstein of the Rhoades Planning Group, which is handling entitlement for the apartment complex. The developers have said they plan to pay the city to hire a contract planner to expedite the review.

See the plans submitted to Design Review Commission.

Related:
New 16-story hotel complex to appeal to empty nesters, professors (2.06.15)
New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R (11.06.14)
Berkeley hotel plans halted pending initiative vote (08.07.14)
At B-Side: Implications of downtown Berkeley initiative (07.22.14)
Would new green initiative kill 2 downtown high rises? (05.14.14)
New 16-story hotel proposed for downtown Berkeley (12.19.13)

Want to get a digest of all the day’s Berkeley news in your email inbox at the end of your working day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.