Berkeley approves plan to demolish 2 buildings, build 156 housing units

Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

Related Posts

A plan to turn two standing commercial buildings on Shattuck Avenue into a 156-unit apartment and commercial complex was officially approved Thursday, which marked the end of the city of Berkeley’s appeal period for the project. The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, or ZAB, had approved the project a month earlier.

The site, which currently holds a convenience store, a barber shop, a vacuum shop and a Copy Central location, along with other stores, will be demolished and consolidated into one 12-story building in the area between 1951-75 Shattuck Avenue and 2108-16 Berkeley Way, according to city senior planner Leslie Mendez. Grosvenor Americas, a property investment and management firm, is overseeing the new development.

“A well-designed building can bring innovative amenities to a community, complementing the public realm and offering people the walkable and accessible neighborhoods a great city demands,” said Grosvenor Americas Senior Vice President of Development Steve Buster in the project application. “The site, which is one and a half blocks from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, is an ideal location for advancing a more sustainable, transit-oriented vision for housing in the Bay Area.”

According to Buster, Grosvenor Americas has been working with the city’s Design Review Committee for two years on the project. He added that the firm has also been working with community members for input, including the owner of the vacuum store, which the firm is helping to relocate.

When completed, the building is planned to include commercial spaces, residential spaces and a parking garage. The current plan for the project includes 100 parking spaces and would make use of car stackers, but many board members and members of the public, including ZAB chair Igor Tregub, expressed a desire to reduce the number of spaces in order to discourage driving at the June 27 ZAB meeting.

Buster said he would be willing to further discuss reducing the number of parking spots slightly and added that each residential unit would receive one free pass for AC Transit, which runs Berkeley’s bus system.

The building is planned to be almost fully electrified and therefore natural gas-free, which the city of Berkeley recently mandated for new construction at its latest meeting.

The plan also includes a new traffic light at the southeast intersection of Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue, which Berkeley City Council has said it will “sponsor” in part, according to Mendez.

Overall, the project will be contributing upward of $11 million to the city in various fees to provide benefit to the community, which Mendez said Grosvenor Americas needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get its plan approved because of the new building’s proposed height. These fees will go toward organizations such as Berkeley Unified School District and causes such as the city’s affordable housing fund.

According to Mendez, the next steps for the project are for Grosvenor Americas to submit building permits to the city. She said she expects for the company to do this within the next 18 months.

“We feel strongly that our proposal lives up to Berkeley’s values of sustainability and respect for the past while meeting the community’s desires for a reinvigorated downtown,” Buster said in the application. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with the neighborhood in the coming months to communicate our vision and refine our proposal.”

Contact Kate Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.