Proposed 8-story housing complex would replace Urban Outfitters, The Ink Stone

Celine Bellegarda/Staff

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The Urban Outfitters store on Bancroft Way closed earlier this month, making way for a potential eight-story mixed-use building project set across from the UC Berkeley campus that is projected to start construction mid-2021.

Dana Ellsworth, president of Rue-Ell Enterprises, Inc. and landlord for the 2590 Bancroft Way building, said before moving out of the space, Urban Outfitters received a one-year extension on its lease after requesting to significantly reduce its rent. According to Ellsworth, the store wasn’t receiving as much business as usual. 

“They were a great tenant and they were a really great retailer for the area, but retail is changing,” Ellsworth said. “People shop online, and also, the demographics at the university have changed significantly from the time they’ve been there.”

Urban Outfitters did not comment as of press time.

The proposed project, headed by Trachtenberg Architects based in Berkeley, would consist of 87 residential apartments — including five very low-income units — 40 long-term bicycle parking spaces and zero vehicular parking spaces. Commercial areas would also be available for three different tenants below the residential units.

The city of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board, or ZAB, will begin the process of reviewing the project proposal Jan. 23.

David Trachtenberg, president and principal architect at Trachtenberg Architects, said the project targets the issue of much-needed student housing close to campus. The units will be provided at market-rate prices, according to Trachtenberg. Although the building would be available to all demographics, Trachtenberg added that it is expected to primarily house students. The project is not affiliated with UC Berkeley, according to Ellsworth.

The Ink Stone, located at 2302 Bowditch St., will also be impacted by this project, according to the project preview submitted to ZAB. Trachtenberg’s complex would replace it as well.

Ellsworth said the building proposal set to replace Urban Outfitters and The Ink Stone is unique because of its traditional studio apartments. Most of the buildings constructed in Berkeley over the past decade were built dormitory-style, according to Ellsworth.

“We have a mostly vacant property and there’s a need for student housing. … The time seemed right to develop the property,” Ellsworth said. “I’ve been appreciative of the Trachtenbergs and their style, and we’re happy that they’re working with us.”

Olivia Buccieri is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.