Consultant behind contentious Berkeley development moves forward with Blake Street project

Alvin Wu/Senior Staff

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The group involved in the construction of a contentious 18-story mixed-use building on Harold Way is planning another development project on Blake Street.

Mark Rhoades, president and CEO of the Rhoades Planning Group, is the consultant for the five-story Roost @ Blake development, which will include 72 apartments, three live-work units and 2,200 feet of retail and cafe space. The project meets the city’s inclusionary housing requirements, as it reserves six apartments for rental at below-market rates, and the property has not been deemed a city landmark or structure of merit.

Rhoades filed the zoning project application for the Blake Street project — whose developers are Nathan George and Xin Jin — in 2013, and the project held an open-house-style neighborhood meeting in September. Mayor Tom Bates said he hadn’t been aware of the project until Thursday, and City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and workers at nearby businesses said they knew little to nothing about it.

“I don’t have an opinion on the project,” Bates said. “More than likely, it will be appealed to the City Council.”

In order to construct the Roost @ Blake, the buildings currently occupying the site — a warehouse and a storage facility — will be demolished. Todd Malone, the sales director of the Airport Home Appliance store on Shattuck Avenue, which uses the warehouse at 2035 Blake St., considered the construction a “good change” after so many years.

The Rhoades Planning Group, which offers urban planning and development consulting, has taken on multiple projects in Berkeley, such as the Eureka restaurant and the Overture, a mixed-use building on University Avenue. The biggest yet — the 2211 Harold Way development — has seen substantial criticism, especially because it will partly block the view from Campanile Way, beloved by many locals.

Rhoades has long been concerned with Berkeley affairs, serving as city planning manager from 1998 to 2007, and has referred to himself as a “controversial” figure in the city. Despite the outcry the Harold Way project has elicited, however, Rhoades said that the city is in need of more housing and that each of his projects benefits the community.

“We are very, very careful in how we choose our projects and clients,” Rhoades said. “There are a lot of people — mostly older people — in Berkeley who do not like change.”

Rhoades said the Blake Street development is set to have its design review later this month and may start construction as early as spring 2016, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Contact Andrea Platten at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @andreaplatten.