Ace Hardware at 2145 University Ave. may be the first business to feel the effects of the changes to come to Downtown Berkeley as part of the Downtown Area Plan.
The owners of the store, which has been in Berkeley since 1895, are in talks with the Chicago-based company Equity Residential. The firm purchased the block that Ace resides on, but nothing has been decided yet, according to Ace Hardware co-owner Virginia Carpenter.
The development stems from the passage of voter-approved Measure R, which was introduced as an alternative to the Downtown Area Plan in 2009 to revitalize and rejuvenate the Downtown area economically and structurally. Measure R passed with 64 percent of the vote in the 2010 November election.
The proposed project will be presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board at the end of the year, and, if the project is passed, the construction will begin next year, said Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. One of the issues that will be brought up at these meetings is what will happen to the businesses that currently reside in the area, he said.
According to campaign records from 2010, Equity Residential donated $25,000 to the “Yes on R” campaign. Equity Residential could not be reached for comment.
Ace Hardware is currently speaking to the firm while trying to decide how to proceed. However, “nothing has been finalized,” said Carpenter, who added that she could not comment any further.
Arreguin said the plan has been a source of contention between the developers and some Berkeley residents who want to protect the historical integrity of the area.
“This is one of the biggest projects the city of Berkeley has undertaken in its entire history,” Arreguin said.
He said that Equity Residential’s actions will set the precedent for other development in the area and that the project is an example of working with the private market to leverage community benefits while encouraging economic revitalization and new housing.
Contact Aliyah Mohammed at [email protected]