Community members raise concerns about 7-story building proposed for Telegraph Avenue

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Alvin Wu/Staff

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Some community members raised concerns about a seven-story residential and commercial building proposed for construction on Telegraph Avenue, including about the potential displacement or closing of local businesses and disruption of the street’s character.

The development, located at 2556 Telegraph Ave., features 76 housing units and a commercial front, according to project proposal documents submitted to the city by development firm Realtex Inc. The building is located across the street from another proposed six-story development, which is also pending approval from the city.

The development will attract families and working professionals to the area, improve streetscapes by adding trees and better lighting and promote commerce in the Telegraph area, said Realtex spokesperson Alex Tourk.

As first reported by Berkeleyside, the development firm held two meetings earlier this year to gain community input before submitting a proposal in April.

Cody Fornari, a senior project manager at Realtex, said at the community meetings that no tenants have been offered a place in the proposed development and that it is too early to determine the new rental prices, according to notes from the meetings. Many tenants said they may close instead of relocating, he said.

M. Eid, owner of Eid’s TV & Electronics at the current site of the proposed building, worries that neighboring businesses in the 2556 Telegraph Ave. property — such as Fondue Fred, Norikonoko, Finfine and Koryo — might not be able to afford new locations.

Though existing businesses may close, community member Edward Carroll said that the additional residents may serve as a consumer base that could improve the Telegraph economy.

“You would have more people there, so the local merchants would have more customers,” he said. “Things get really slow for businesses down there.”

Patrick Kennedy, the developer of the six-story property across the street, stated that the new housing and commercial spaces would bring positive cultural change to the area.

“The housing complexes will provide much needed vitality and life,” Kennedy said. “Telegraph Avenue has been declining for 30 years and needs new businesses and new people.”

But John English, a Telegraph-area resident with a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley, said the area is still active, busy and diverse.

English, who attended the second community meeting, also said he dislikes the design of the building located at 2556 Telegraph Ave.

“To me, the architecture is uninspired, awkwardly jumbled, yet bland — it makes no attempt to relate visually to its surroundings,” he said.

Tourk said that Realtex is working to address as many of the community’s concerns as possible but that some meeting attendees believe that the firm has ignored their opinions.

“The community has given (Realtex) very clear feedback, and they haven’t responded,” said Malka Weitman, a Telegraph area resident who attended the second community meeting.

The next steps for the proposal are obtaining approval from various city commissions, Tourk said. According to the city’s website, meetings with the city’s Design Review Committee and Zoning Adjustments Board had not yet been scheduled as of Tuesday night.

Contact Sally Littlefield at [email protected].