South Gate Apartments on Durant Avenue to open in August

Tim Hyon/Staff

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South Gate Apartments, a mixed-use building with 44 dwelling units and 2,800 square feet of nonresidential floor area, is expected to be ready by August 2016.

Located at 2526 Durant Ave. and owned by the real estate company Rue-Ell Enterprises Inc., South Gate Apartments lies one block south of the UC Berkeley campus in the Telegraph Avenue commercial area alongside retail stores such as Top Dog and Smoke’s Poutinerie.

Approved by City Council in 2008, the mixed-use housing project on Durant Avenue has a long history. According to Dana Ellsworth, director of acquisitions of Rue-Ell Enterprises, her family bought the property in the late 1980s and first devised the project in the late 1990s.

Originally, the site was home to the Ellen Blood house, a Victorian house built in 1891. Because the Blood House is a City of Berkeley Structure of Merit building, the Landmark Preservation Commission required it to be relocated before construction of South Gate Apartments could commence.

The inability to find a spot to relocate the Ellen Blood house delayed the entire process of construction, Ellsworth said. Finally, last August, the building was relocated to 2506 Regent St. and a revised proposal was submitted to City Council for review Nov. 13, 2014.

Unlike in the 2008 proposal, there will be no on-site parking lot, but instead an increased commercial floor area, a secure bike parking room and a study hall.

In addition, the project’s housing units will include four studios, 32 one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units.

The commercial aspect of the project will include ground-floor restaurant space and stores, such as a quick-service food place with beer and wine.

Moreover, as opposed to the earlier version of the project, the revised proposal was subject to the city’s Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee Ordinance. The law mandates that property owners either pay a fee or provide a set number of affordable units. South Gate Apartments chose to pay the required fee.

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, South Gate Apartments may continue to answer to several student demands for late-night operating businesses.

“Durant is one of the more exciting blocks undergoing development because several businesses have agreed to keep their stores open late at night, even (up to) 4 a.m.,” Worthington said.

Worthington added that having more “eyes and ears on the street” as a result of the development will enhance the safety of the neighborhood.

The new structure, according to Ellsworth, will include a cathedral-style element with “beautiful marble-like granite stairs.” She added that the building will be a more traditional apartment structure, different from new, residence hall-style complexes.

Several other proposals have been submitted for the further development of Durant Avenue.

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected].