Developers submitted initial plans to the city of Berkeley on Dec. 20 for a proposed 16-story hotel, office and retail project located at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street and designed to be the centerpiece of Downtown Berkeley.
The project, led by Center Street Partners LLC, will use about 284,000 square feet at 2129 Shattuck Ave. for a 180-foot high-rise building containing nearly 300 hotel rooms, two to four floors of office space and accompanying retail and banking facilities on the ground level. The planned redevelopment will replace the one-story building and parking lot currently home to Berkeley’s main branch of Bank of America.
The developers hope to utilize the location’s proximity to the UC Berkeley campus, AC Transit lines and BART to make it a central area for the Berkeley community.
“Hotel, office and retail uses will make Downtown more vibrant and inviting,” said Matthew Taecker of Taecker Planning and Design, the firm charged with managing project planning, from initial submission to approval. “Because the (Bank of America) site is only steps away from BART, it is perhaps the most important opportunity for putting people and jobs near transit … and for supporting retail and cultural destinations in the vicinity.”
According to the proposal submitted to the city, community benefits would include increased patronage of Downtown shops, environmental sustainability through LEED certification and hotel and office space that has been lost to Emeryville, San Francisco and other locations, according to Taecker.
The project is designed to fit the city of Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted in 2012 and supplies guidelines for future development of Downtown Berkeley.
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who represents the district encompassing Downtown Berkeley, said the plan was modified to allow for buildings exceeding 75 feet in what are deemed “core areas” — the only zones in which high-rise development may occur — determined by the dense level of amenities and foot traffic outside of residential areas. This comes as a direct response to the high demand for hotel and conference space by UC Berkeley and the city, according to Arreguin.
“Redeveloping the site is critical to the revitalization of Downtown,” Arreguin said. “For 10 years, the city has been talking about a hotel and conference facility built on that location.”
The city’s Office of Economic Development has not had the opportunity for a formal review of development plans and declined to comment, said Dave Fogarty, economic development project coordinator for the city of Berkeley.
Despite provisions in the city plan that allow for construction of a high-rise building, such as a hotel, extra provisions have been set in place so that several principal concerns are addressed.
According to Arreguin, these provisions ask that hotel construction and hotel employers provide union jobs and agree to support a union’s attempt to organize its workforce. The other central issue is maintaining consistency with the city’s plan of closing Center Street to traffic for the creation of a pedestrian plaza, which Berkeley City Council voted 8-1 in support for in 2010.
“Lots of Berkeley residents are generally not in favor of really tall buildings,” Arreguin said. “I’m willing, and others, to accept a building that tall as long as it’s not going to kill any dream of having a pedestrian plaza.”
Although no hoteliers have been named, the developers hope to generate about $1 million in new revenue for the city each year from a 12 percent tax, which will be assessed on hotel room income, Taecker said.
The developers plan to hold a meeting in early 2014 that will be open to the public so that community members can receive more information and have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.