Construction begins for Downtown Berkeley apartment complex 5 years after approval

Kevin Chan/Staff

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Construction began on the apartment complex Modera Acheson Commons in Downtown Berkeley last week, five years after the project was approved, according to Mill Creek Residential, the project’s housing developer.

The complex, located a block from the west entrance of UC Berkeley’s campus on 2145 University Ave., will be made up of four buildings containing 205 apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space. Residents are expected to move in starting mid-2020, according to a Mill Creek Residential press release.

The people who are most likely to want to live there are students or other university affiliates,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “It’s great that it’s finally coming around to happen. We urgently need middle-class housing as well as low-income housing.”

The property was previously owned by Equity Residential, the original developer of the apartment complex that bought the property in 2010. Worthington said City Council unanimously voted to send the company’s original proposal for review to the Zoning Adjustments Board in 2013, citing concerns such as a parking shortage and the possible demolition of rent-controlled units.

After the necessary changes were made to the proposal, the zoning board approved it in June 2013, but Equity Residential never moved forward with the construction and eventually sold the property to Mill Creek Residential in 2016.

Igor Tregub, chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board, said this complex will add more market-rate housing to the city, but that Berkeley is also in need of low-income housing.

“It will be another opportunity to provide housing for existing Berkeley residents and therefore assist with the housing crisis that the Berkeley community faces,” Tregub said. “But we are woefully short at producing below-market-rate housing.”

Mill Creek Residential is also currently working on building a 18-story building in place of the Downtown Berkeley Walgreens.

Sam Salzeider, general manager of Mike’s Bikes located on University Avenue near the building site for Modera Acheson Commons, said  Berkeley needs more housing and that he is in favor of the construction, adding that the influx of residents may help business.

According to John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, the company has done an “excellent job” preserving three historic buildings in its designs and the project is strategically important because of its location at the “gateway” of Downtown. Modera Acheson Commons will be in close proximity to Downtown Berkeley businesses and is also walking distance to the BART station.*

“Shattuck and University is kind of ground zero for the city,” Caner said. “It’s a gateway from the freeway, and to have that area revitalized with housing in a tasteful historical context and design and good retail space will be good for the Downtown.”

Sri Medicherla covers business and economy. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sri_medicherla.