Time to rebuild on Telegraph

CITY AFFAIRS: Plans to reconstruct the burned-down building on Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street are promising, but must come to fruition.

More than a year since two beloved eateries and dozens of apartment units near campus burned to the ground, feasible plans to rebuild finally seem to be progressing. Recently, the owners of the building that formerly stood on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue submitted a proposal that would reconstruct the apartment building and once again house Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar and Grill.

While the new building plans are encouraging, this is not the first time locals have been led to believe that the restaurants might return soon. Last year, plans to set up temporary tents on the lot that would allow the eateries to reopen were met with anticipation by many community members. However, those plans were soon abandoned. This time, city officials need to make sure that the building architect and owners follow through — and quickly, too.

Telegraph desperately needs to restore life on that corner. The empty lot is neighbored by both another vacant lot and the empty storefront formerly home to Cody’s bookstore. Reintroducing two popular businesses will go a long way toward improving the avenue’s economic climate. Other businesses feel the loss of Raleigh’s and Cafe Intermezzo in the area, so it is important to move the reconstruction process along swiftly.

A new building will also mean more housing for students. Similar to the old structure, the building is set to include about 40 apartment units in addition to the restaurants, providing convenient living options just a few blocks away from the UC Berkeley campus. Housing more students in the area may also contribute to an uptick in business for Telegraph shops.

While the new building plans seem to be received well by the community, some concerns have been raised about the architecture. The new design, in contrast to the brick-heavy character of the old building, has a decidedly modern feel, with an uneven outline complemented by an emphasis on rectangular elements and varying colors. Critics must understand that the most important consideration should be constructing and opening a new building as fast as possible; subjective arguments about aesthetics, while understandable, could continue endlessly.

For the same reason, it’s important for the city not to let this project get bogged down by Berkeley’s extensive permit system. Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington has said in the past that the city made efforts to expedite the process for the building owners — that should continue now. Students, local residents and business owners have all been waiting anxiously for this lot to return to its former glory. It’s well overdue.