The McDonald’s on the corner of Shattuck and University avenues in Downtown Berkeley may soon be demolished and replaced by a 26-story, high-rise apartment building, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
With plans to house 297 dwelling units and a rooftop restaurant with views of the San Francisco Bay, the structure would be the tallest building in Berkeley at a height of 277 feet, should the proposal move forward.
According to Nathan George, one of the project’s principal developers, the building is one of seven his development firm, NX Ventures, submitted proposals for. The buildings would add 1,500 housing units to Berkeley’s housing market in total, he said.
“This intersection really deserves a substantial building to mark the entry into downtown and the campus coming up University,” George said in an email. “We are very focused on helping to solve the housing crisis with these projects and this is an essential site for doing so.”
The proposal, which is collaborated on by the Rhoades Planning Group and Berkeley design group Trachtenberg Architects, was submitted to the city of Berkeley under SB 330, which was part of the state’s Housing Crisis Act of 2019. The act limits local control over development projects that are at least two-thirds residential, streamlining the permitting process.
George said the team plans to employ an “aggressive schedule,” hoping the project will be approved by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board by fall 2023. The ensuing 18 months of construction are expected to start in early 2024.
However, the building will replace McDonald’s and the other existing businesses on the lot, which include the Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative, Turkish Kitchen and the Spats bar.
Sam Wilson, one of eight worker-owners at the Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative, expressed concern for the cooperative’s survivability should they be evicted.
“The pandemic, the supply chain breakdown, inflation, and losing several experienced workers have all taken a heavy toll on our business, but I think being evicted from our space would be more difficult for us than any of that,” Wilson said in an email. “It’s definitely possible that this could be the end of the road.”
According to Wilson, the worker-owned cooperative has been in operation since 1971 — the last 44 years were spent in its current location. Many of its workers have been employed by the cooperative for more than 20 years, he said.
Wilson added that he was only informed of the proposal when it was first reported Wednesday.
“When a local business has been around as long as we have, it becomes part of the town’s character,” Wilson said in the email. “Berkeley has a strong tradition of worker-owned cooperatives, and we’re one of the originals.”
George acknowledged the existing businesses in the chosen lot, noting that they can be incorporated into the building.
The Spats bar in particular, which George took co-ownership of in 2014, was described by George as “essential to the project.”
“We value every existing tenant in our projects as they are part of the fabric of Berkeley, and this one is no different,” George said in the email. “We will work with the tenants to move back into the project after completion.”