Update, 5:55 p.m. Dana Ellsworth of the project team told Berkeleyside the gym will remain in place for three more years while the project team seeks permits.
Original post, 10 a.m. The days may be numbered for a popular gym in downtown Berkeley, in a nearly 100-year-old building on Addison Street, with an application submitted to the city that features a new vision for the future.
That vision could one day even include a cabaret or other type of entertainment venue, according to ideas put forward earlier this month by the development team. But where gym-goers will turn remains an unanswered question. There’s no indication they will be able to come back to Addison Street.
In a brief statement to the city dated Jan. 27, when project materials initially were submitted, Dana Ellsworth of property owner Ruegg & Ellsworth wrote, “We would like to demolish our existing commercial building and erect a new six story mixed use building…. with ground floor commercial space, an underground parking garage for twenty-four automobiles with a parking lift, and five stories of residential apartments for a total of fifty five units.”
A staffer at the gym, 24 Hour Fitness at 2072 Addison, said no one has let employees know what to expect. She came into work one day to see a large yellow sign posted outside about the project plans.
“Everybody’s asking me about it,” she said. “They’ve literally kept us in the dark.”
Berkeleyside has asked 24 Hour Fitness for comment but has not heard back.
The property owners held a community meeting Feb. 11, according to a letter to neighbors that also was submitted to the city, at their architect Kirk Peterson’s office in Oakland. It was unknown as of publication time what the turnout was.
According to the letter to neighbors, the retail space in the new building will be “large,” and the apartments are set to offer one or two bedrooms. Further, “There will be a roof terrace and solar equipment on the roof.” The proposed building appears to be 75 feet tall.
According to a lengthier applicant statement dated April 4, the project team could see a restaurant or entertainment venue on the ground floor, which is slated to feature 18-foot ceilings.
“The high ceiling and oblong configuration of the ground floor space will accommodate a restaurant or retail business well,” according to the letter. “An entertainment venue or a restaurant/cabaret would work well with the high ceilings, good sight lines and possible stage or mezzanine musicians’ box/loft.”
The building has no landmark or historic designation, according to that statement. It was built in the early 20th century, and originally housed an automobile garage business.
According to a historic report completed in March by the architect (page 5), there was a livery stable on site before the garage, which opened in 1923. The building was altered in 1947 when it became a furniture store, then again after a fire in 1968.
The Aurora Theater company was briefly housed there, in 1976, according to the report. Poppy Fabric had a 10-year run, from 1977 to 1987. Gold’s Gym moved in in 1988, which is the last business listed in the historic record completed by the architect.
“It is not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or California Register of Historical Resources because of the extensive changes and little of the earliest historic fabric remains,” according to the report. “While the building has integrity of location and setting, the original materials and workmanship have been lost.”
The report concludes that it’s high time for a change.
“While it signifies progress, it also marks a moment in the beginning of the decline of the urban core,” according to the project team. “A denser use of space would increase vitality of the district. It would be more authentic, align with current thinking, and help support the use of buildings more significant to history.”
A 2015 historic assessment submitted to the state takes a more forgiving view, and notes that the building is “in very good condition.”
“The building has historic significant [sic] due to its association with the Woolsey family and the Francis Shattuck Building that is located east of and adjacent to the subject property,” according to the report, which is posted on the city website. “The early uses of this building, including the automobile garage and the site of the offices of American Railway Express (according to the 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Map), reflect important patterns of development in the downtown core.”
If the city had a downtown historic district, the building could be a contributor, according to the report. The building dates to a time of significance for the downtown, from 1923 to 1958.
“The building is representative at the street of commercial forms that were prominent” during that time, according to the report. But preservation would likely take work: “The forms visible today in the façade maintain an important link to the past of downtown Berkeley, but the building details are presently lost in time.”
Hearings before the Zoning Adjustments Board and Design Review Committee are expected but have not yet been scheduled, according to the city website.
More historical assessments by the city can be seen on its website.
Luxury rental housing to replace Berkeley offices (04.18.16)
Berkeley plans ‘very efficient garage that people will be happy to come to’ (07.30.16)
Mixed-use 6-story building approved on Addison Street (07.25.13)
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