City approves apartment complex on University Avenue in area plan

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Acheson Commons, a 205-unit apartment complex to be built on University Avenue, was approved Thursday by the Zoning Adjustments Board as part of the Downtown Area Plan.

The approval comes after an appeal was filed in March by Berkeley Residents for Sustainable Development against the Acheson Commons, citing concerns about building height and a demolition permit. Acheson Commons is part of the new zoning ordinance under the Downtown Area Plan, which aims to revitalize the Downtown area of the city.

The commons will be built on the 2100 block of University Avenue, forcing several businesses that currently reside on the block to relocate.

Ace Hardware, which has resided at 2145 University Ave. since 1895, will be forced to move under the ordinance.

The store has been in talks with the Chicago-based firm Equity Residential after Equity purchased the block Ace currently resides on.

“The Ace Hardware will relocate during the construction process,” said Marty McKenna, media relations spokesperson for Equity Residential. “We would very much like the Ace Hardware to return to the property after construction is completed, and are working with them towards this goal.”

According to Ace co-owner Virginia Carpenter, the plans for the upcoming move have not been solidified.

“We have no idea where or when we are moving,” Carpenter said. “We just know that we have about a year left.”

Despite the firm’s offer to return Ace to its original location after construction, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said that it may not be economically feasible due to the rent increase Ace would likely experience if it moved back as a tenant under Acheson.

Since being approved by the city in 2009, the plan has been met with opposition, including a lawsuit in 2012 to halt action on the plan.

Neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit in May 2012 against the city of Berkeley alleging that the city “improperly” approved the plan without analyzing the full extent of the plan’s environmental impacts in the city’s environmental impact report as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

According to Arreguin, unless a judge decides more environmental regulations are necessary, the various housing developments can proceed as planned.

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected]