1812 University Ave. could become "The Overture" apartments. Photo: Google maps
Two structures, at 1808-1814 University Ave., would be demolished to make way for “The Overture” apartments. Photo: Google Maps
Two structures, at 1808-1814 University Ave., would be demolished to make way for “The Overture” apartments. Photo: Google Maps

A new mixed-use development on University Avenue, set to contain 41 units, has begun wending its way through the city of Berkeley’s permit approval process.

The Rhoades Planning Group, run by former city planner Mark Rhoades, submitted the application for the project in October. It has not yet been scheduled for design or zoning board review.

The project, called “The Overture” — perhaps referencing its 1812 University address with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — would be a transit-oriented mixed-used building at University just west of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  

The “amenity-rich, sustainable development” would feature “large units” near downtown, according to the applicant statement submitted by the city.

The project would cater to urban professionals who want to live close to downtown, BART, Trader Joe’s and the varied “cultural resources” of Berkeley’s downtown arts district.

In addition to 41 dwelling units, a 2,315-square-foot commercial space is proposed, as well as nearly 1,300 square feet for a quick- or full-service restaurant with café seating: “Retail storefronts will open on to University Avenue with an enhanced pedestrian environment.” There’s also a mezzanine available for café seating, or other activities depending on the tenant.

The site currently supports 15,771 square feet of commercial floor area, according to the application.

A 7,200-square-foot underground parking garage, with room for 19 vehicles, is planned. The garage would be accessed via a driveway on University on the property’s eastern edge. A common hallway on the ground floor is set to include 17 bike parking spaces.

The project is set to include four below-market-rate units, which would entitle The Overture to receive a density bonus resulting in a fourth story.

The Overture. Image: Tolbert Design Architects
The Overture. (Click to see the full plan set.) Image: Tolbert Design Architects

Also included in the designs are a lounge, gym, laundry room and kitchen, as well as open space in a central courtyard for residents. Existing structures on site, at 1808-1814 University, would be demolished if the project is approved.

The current unit mix includes 16 studios (415 square feet), 11 one-bedrooms (686 square feet), and 14 two-bedrooms (918 square feet). A 2,522-square-foot deck is planned on the fourth level, and some of the units have private balconies or “generous patios.”

According to the application, the building’s design “will use sophisticated contemporary architecture with a hint of traditional styling. Materials of a light but muted color will structurally differentiate the cast stone veneer retail base from the residential upper floors, and will be enhanced with subtle archways and parapets, floor-to-ceiling windows, and wrought iron balcony railings to balance classic and contemporary styles with an understated elegance.”

According to the application, many of the project’s features will contribute to its sustainability, including its density and its proximity to transit, its mixed-use character, “interior and exterior finishes and materials,” and amenities like bike parking.

Location is one of the project’s main selling points, as it will place residents in a “neighborhood rich with walkable amenities, services, and public transportation options” and limit the need for personal vehicles.

The project is requesting several waivers or modifications: a use permit for reduced parking (19 spaces, including nine accessible via lifts, rather than the 41 required spots); reduced open space (6,339 square feet rather than 8,200); a variance for height (50 feet and four stories rather than 36 feet and three stories); and a variance for maximum floor area ratio (the ratio of floor area to the size of the total property).

According to the application, the project is in line with state greenhouse gas emissions goals, as well as the city’s own Climate Action Plan due to its transit-oriented location.

In addition to Rhoades, the project team includes architect Jeremiah Tolbert of Tolbert Design Architects, and Nathan George, managing member of 1812 University Avenue, LLC.

The project team held a neighborhood meeting in August; 11 people attended, according to a sign-in sheet provided as part of the team’s application.

[Editor’s note: We spoke with Nathan George and he clarified that he does not intend to use lifts for vehicle parking, and that 17 bike parking spots are planned on the ground floor, along with another six outside on the sidewalk. (Bike parking is not planned in the underground garage.) The story has been corrected to reflect this.]

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...