Developers proposing 16-story Downtown Berkeley high-rise seek community input

JRDV Architects /Courtesy

Related Posts

Developers hoping to build a 16-story mixed-use building on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street sought community feedback at an open house Tuesday, the fourth public showing so far of a plan that seeks to revitalize Downtown Berkeley.

The building would feature a 293-room hotel, along with restaurants and 65,500 net square feet of office space, according to documents submitted to the Zoning Adjustments Board. It would take the place of what is currently the Bank of America building at 2129 Shattuck Ave. and is intended to fit into the Downtown Area Plan, a larger effort to develop Downtown Berkeley.

Among other guidelines, the plan provides for one high-rise hotel in the area, which can be no higher than the existing 180-foot buildings.

“(The open house) was a really important benchmarker moment,” said Matthew Taecker, whose firm, Taecker Planning and Design, is overseeing the project.

Having consulted with two other public bodies, developers presented preliminary plans to the Zoning Adjustments Board last Thursday. At the meeting, Taecker told commissioners that revenue from the taxes associated with the hotel could generate about $2 million for the city.

Nonetheless, Taecker said, his team needs to navigate certain economic constraints as it considers city and community input on the project. For example, many have urged more meeting space in the new building.

“Without, really, a major conference and meeting hotel, we displace a lot of business to other cities,” said Barbara Hillman, president and CEO of Visit Berkeley.

But such space would be run by a hotelier, which may or may not be interested in doing so. Taecker said he has been speaking with two hotel managers and has yet to reach an agreement.

“We’re going to work with the hotel, and we’re going to work hard with the city,” Taecker said.

Taecker’s firm is also speaking with Ecocity Builders, an Oakland nonprofit that has been working for years to redesign Center Street to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Berkeley resident Jurgen Aust said he thought the hotel was not the best plan to improve the city but agreed that Downtown Berkeley needs change.

“It’s a pretty sad place,” Aust said. “There’s nothing going on in Berkeley.”

Other supporters of the hotel include Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong and Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner.

Taecker said he hopes to submit a formal application in the next couple of months to the Zoning Adjustments Board, which will issue the final verdict on whether to approve the project. In a better-case scenario, according to Taecker, the project could be fully approved by next year, and construction could then be finished within three years.

Melissa Wen covers city news. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.