More than 1,400 units are in the works for downtown. Image: Downtown Berkeley Association
More than 1,400 units are in the works for downtown. Image: Downtown Berkeley Association

More than 1,400 housing units are currently in development in downtown Berkeley, with demolition on one of the first in the pipeline scheduled to begin this week.

There are eight projects, including a hotel, planned in the downtown core, with two more planned just south, on Dwight Way, and another proposal on University Avenue just west of downtown that’s set to have its first public city review next week.

Demolition for Varsity Berkeley, which has frontage on both Durant Avenue and Channing Way, was slated to begin Monday, Jan. 13, according to Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner.

Caner said the project is expected to break ground for construction several weeks after that.

According to Downtown Berkeley Association calculations, the new projects will bring at least 1,414 new units and more than 88,000 square feet of new retail space to the downtown area. Not included in those calculations is the project just beginning city review, The Overture, which would bring an additional 44 units and 4,151 square feet of retail and restaurant space to the city’s core.

A recently published association brochure described the growth as “explosive,” and described the population gains expected in the city as a result.

“Downtown Berkeley has nearly doubled in population since 2000 and now counts some 3,000 residents in its thirty block footprint,” according to the pamphlet. “The number of residents will nearly double again to 5,000 with over 1,400 new housing units slated for completion by 2018.”

Experts say the boom signals a rebounding economy. The city has also taken steps to incentivize building by, for example, reducing associated fees related to development within the city limits.

Critics of the boom say Berkeley may face problems as a result of increased density, whether from greater traffic and parking headaches to more issues with noise. Some criticize projects aimed to house students, noting that the university itself should be taking steps to shelter its affiliates, rather than placing the burden on the city and private developers. Many say the city needs more family-oriented housing, as well. The specter of steeper rents and a lack of affordable housing have been among other causes of public concern.

Last year at about this time, Berkeleyside reported in-depth and provided an overview of the 1,000 units in development at that time. Projections have grown since then. Scroll down to learn the latest news about many of the projects underway in downtown Berkeley and beyond.

The downtown core

Image: HSR Berkeley Investments

The Residences at Berkeley Plaza (355 units; 12,000 square feet of retail) The 17-story rental high-rise will be an L-shaped building with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at 2211 Harold Way. The Hotel Shattuck Plaza, which sits on the same block but has different owners, would share some of the project’s amenities but otherwise remain untouched. Under plans submitted in December 2012, Harold Way will become a string of stores and cafés, part of 12,000 square feet of retail in the building. The project, estimated to cost $75 million, would include a 180-foot tower next to the property that now houses Landmark Theatre’s Shattuck Cinemas and other offices. Developers also plan to include six state-of-the-art movie theaters, said Mark Rhoades, the project’s lead planning consultant and the property owner’s representative. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The project had a preview before the zoning board in March 2013, and an updated application was submitted in June, but there have been no rulings made thus far.

Image: Center Street Partners

2129 Shattuck Ave. (293 units; 12,500 square feet of retail) A Carmel-based developer and UC Berkeley graduate were set to submit plans in December to construct a 16-story, 180-foot-tall hotel with office space, meeting rooms and retail space at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. The new complex, proposed by Jim Didion and Center Street Partners LLC, would replace the 1970s-era one-story Bank of America building and parking lot, and, if approved, transform one of the most visible corners in downtown Berkeley. The hotel, with 293 rooms, also has the potential to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city, according to Matthew Taecker, a former city planner whose firm, Taecker Planning and Design, has been hired to oversee the entitlement process. The hotel rooms will likely rent for about $200 a night, and will be taxed at 12%. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The application was scheduled to be submitted in December, but has not been posted online.

Image: Kirk Peterson Architects

Acheson Commons (205 units; 35,000 square feet of retail) The 48,122-square-foot project site includes the MacFarlane Building on Shattuck and University; the Krishna Copy Center building on University; the Crepes a Go-Go building on University; the Acheson Physicians building on University; the Ace Hardware building on University; and two homes on Walnut Street. The project involves the construction of 205 apartments and the rehabilitation of 34,000 square feet of commercial space. The project would increase the city’s annual tax revenue by $600,000, said Mark Rhoades. There would either be 18 permanently affordable dwellings for very-low income households or a payment to the city of $5.7 million to provide for affordable housing. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The project was approved in July 2013; groundbreaking is expected this coming fall.

Image: Johnson Lyman Architects

StoneFire (119 units; 8,700 square feet of retail) This eight-story building could take the place of the Firestone garage and parking lot, at Milvia and University, if the development at 1974 University Ave. is approved by the city of Berkeley. The developer, William Schrader Jr., plans to include 11 below-market-rate rental units on site, out of 115-120 total rental units. Including those units allows him, under state “density bonus” law, to build 35% more units than the project would otherwise allow. The units will include a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom units. Underground parking is included in the project plans. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The city design review committee considered the project twice in late 2013, but it has not yet been scheduled before the zoning board.

Image: Menlo Management Company

2107 Dwight Way (99 units; 5,607 square feet of retail) We reported last February that Menlo Management Company wants to construct a six-story, 63-foot-tall building with 99 rental units, ground floor retail, and 45 parking spaces at the intersection of Dwight Way and Shattuck Avenue. (Some project documentation notes that 73 total parking spaces will be provided using “automated stacked parking.”) Three retail entrances are proposed. The developer asked for a density bonus to add a sixth story in exchange for providing affordable housing on site. According to the city, the project will include nine below-market-rate dwelling units. The architect is Richard Christiani of San Francisco. Read more on the city website. Status: The project received city approvals in December 2012. Berkeleyside has requested a status update from Christiani’s firm.

Image: Johnson Lyman Architects

The Varsity (96 units, no retail) Located at  and , The Varsity is the first project among recent proposals that is expected to begin construction. The building is set to have frontage on both Durant and Channing; it’s set mid-block between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street. The south side of the building is proposed to rise to four stories, and the north side to six. The architects are Johnson Lyman Architects of Walnut Creek. Developer William Schrader Jr. said he believes 70-80% of the building’s units will be occupied, at least at first, by students. The project includes 34 parking spaces, which Schrader said is 30% more than the city code requires. The project also features four electric car-charging stations, two car-share parking spots and at least 40 bike parking spaces. The project will not include below-market-rate units, but will send about $1.5 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2014.

Image: Nautilus Group

Garden Village (77 units, no retail) “Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, which range in height from three to five stories and are connected by open-air walkways — to its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants. Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. Units are tentatively slated to cost $800-$1,000 per resident. Read more on BerkeleysideStatus: The project was approved in October 2013, with groundbreaking planned in June 2014. It is expected to open by summer 2015.

Proposed L’Argent site. Image: Google Maps

L’Argent (78 units; 5,000 square feet of retail) One of the newest projects on the list, this condominium proposal at 1951-1975 Shattuck Ave. is for a 12-story tower with two floors of retail topped by 10 of residential. The application was expected to be submitted in December, with architect Jim Novosel of The Bay Architects handling the design. Novosel said the units will be comparable in size to many of the bungalows in the Berkeley flats. The Nasser family, whose ancestor, Abraham Nasser, built the Castro Theater in San Francisco and was instrumental in popularizing Nickelodeon theaters, owns the property. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: Zoning and design reviews are still to be scheduled, and the application has not been posted online.

Image: Rony Rolnizky

1935 Addison (69 units; 7,240 square feet of retail) This 69-unit building, with 7,240 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, was approved by the city’s zoning board last July for construction on Addison Street. The six-story 60-foot-tall building is the latest development by property owner Avi Nevo, who has built numerous projects in Berkeley over the last 17 years, including Telegraph Gardens across from Whole Foods at Ashby Avenue. The Addison Street project, at 1931-1935 Addison (between Milvia and Martin Luther King Jr. Way), is set to take the place of two garages on adjacent parcels. Ten studio apartments, five one-bedroom units, 53 two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit are planned. Ten percent of the units, a total of seven, will be affordable to very low income households — those earning 50 percent of the area median income. Nevo is not taking the “density bonus,” which would have allowed him to build a taller building. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The project was approved by the zoning board in July 2013; an appeal by neighbors was filed but withdrawn, leaving Nevo free to move forward.

Image: Tolbert Design Architects

The Overture (44 units; 2,668 square feet of retail and 1,483 square feet of restaurant space) This mixed-use development at 1808-1814 University Ave., set to contain 44 units, began wending its way through the city of Berkeley’s permit approval process in November. The “amenity-rich, sustainable development” would feature “large units” near downtown, according to the applicant statement submitted by the city. In addition to 44 dwelling units, a 1,483-square-foot commercial space is proposed, as well as nearly 2,700 square feet for a quick- or full-service restaurant with café seating. A 7,200-square-foot underground garage, with room for 19 vehicles, is planned. Four below-market-rate units would be included. Read more on BerkeleysideStatus: The project is scheduled to go before the zoning board Thursday, Jan. 23. Read the latest applicant statement, dated January 2014, here.

Image: The Bay Architects

Fidelity Apartments (16 units; 2,580 square feet of retail) Prasad Lakireddy is in the process of building a Mediterranean-style, five-story, 16-unit building with 1,600 feet of ground-floor retail between his Namaste Restaurant (housed in the historic Fidelity Bank building) and Mechanics Bank on Shattuck. The apartments, in the 2300 block of Shattuck Ave., will mostly be large two-bedroom units from 850-1,300 square feet, according to Jim Novosel, of The Bay Architects, “bigger than the typical student apartment in the downtown.” Three affordable units were scheduled for inclusion. Off-site parking, totaling nine spaces, was required. Read more on BerkeleysideStatus: As of February 2013, construction had already started and the building was scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2014.

Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

These projects join Berkeley Central, which came on the market in late 2012, at 2055 Center St., with 143 units. With the rent for a one-bedroom starting at $2,500, and a two-bedroom at $3,900, the apartments were marketed mostly to empty-nesters and well-paid professionals. According to the Downtown Berkeley Association, the project reached full occupancy in a matter of months. Another project to come online in recent times was Telegraph Gardens. This five-story, 38-unit building on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby opened for rentals last February. All the units have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and range from 800 to 1,100 square feet.

The Association of Bay Area Governments determined in the late 2000s that Berkeley should set a goal of constructing 2,431 housing units to deliver its fair share of the region’s housing. As of January 2013, Berkeley had issued permits for 860 building units, according to a Berkeley city planner. (The projects listed in this round-up were not included in that count.)

Other developments in the works

In addition to what’s listed above, Berkeley has various other projects in development. Scroll down to learn more about those we’ve covered in the past year.

Image: CityCentric

Parker Place CityCentric won approval in January 2012 to construct a 155-unit building at the intersection of Shattuck and Parker, the current home of Berkeley Honda. The project calls for two five-story mixed-use buildings at 2658 and 2660 Shattuck (both sides of Parker at Shattuck) and a three-story residential building at 2037 Parker. In addition to 155 dwelling units, there is nearly 23,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Read more on BerkeleysideStatus: The late Patti Dacey, a Berkeley planning commissioner who died in 2013, joined with other local residents to file a lawsuit challenging the project. Update, 11 p.m.: Via Mark Rhoades, this site was purchased by Lennar Multifamily and is being developed by Lennar and the Rhoades Planning Group. They are in the construction process now. The Court of Appeals upheld the Superior Court’s decision to allow the project to proceed in December 2013. They expect to break ground this fall or winter.

Image: Gerding Edlen

The Higby After lying vacant for years, work began in December on a five-story, 98-unit mixed-use housing development at the southeast corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues. Gerding Edlen, which specializes in infill and sustainable development, bought the property at 3015 San Pablo Ave., along with all related city entitlements, in 2012 from its previous owner, Ali Kashani of CityCentric. The price was not disclosed, although online real estate sites estimated it was worth $38 million. The complex had been known as “Ashby Arts,” but has been renamed “The Higby.” Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: Construction on the project began in December.

Image: Kirk E. Peterson & Associates

2501 Haste St. The proposal by Telegraph Avenue property owner Ken Sarachan shows a six-story, 14,000-square-foot mixed-use building, which includes a ground floor and sunken courtyard space for retailers, four residential floors of 79 one- and two-bedroom apartments, and a landscaped roof deck. The lot has been vacant for more than two decades. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: After the city brought a lawsuit against Sarachan for $640,000 in liens related to the property, the two parties settled in October 2013 with the understanding that Sarachan would have 45 days to move his proposal forward through the design review and zoning approval process. The project sailed through a preliminary zoning board preview in December and is set for design review Jan. 16. (The zoning board has not yet voted on the project.)

Image: Trachtenberg Architects

The Aquatic This proposal for a mixed-use development at 800 University Ave. is set to include 58 units. City zoning board commissioners have lauded what they described as its beautiful design and sensitivity to the surrounding neighborhood. The 45- to 55-foot-tall building will feature 1,175 square feet of office or retail space, and 60 parking spaces. Two structures currently on site — which have housed a construction company, a veterinary clinic (circa 1973) and, later, medical research labs — will be demolished to make way for the project, which was designed by Berkeley-based Trachtenberg Architects. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: Construction is expected to begin in February 2014, with a possible opening by summer 2015.

Image: Mikiten Architecture

The Metropolitan St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is building The Metropolitan, with frontage at 2301 Durant Ave. and 2300 Bancroft Way. The five-story 44-unit building will be set over a 59-space parking garage on an L-shaped parcel that fronts Durant, Ellsworth and Bancroft. The building will be a private dormitory for approximately 160 students. They would each rent a small bedroom slated to be arranged around a common area. Rooms will rent for around $1,100 a month, according to Chris Hudson, whose firm Hudson McDonald developed the project with the church. The project also includes a 2,722-square-foot church community center. Status: The project received its entitlements in 2012 and began construction early last year. Units will likely be available for rent later this year.

Image: Kahn Design Associates

2441 Haste St. The owners of a property destroyed by a devastating fire in November 2011 hope to build a new 42-unit, 65-foot-tall, 43,000-square-foot apartment building to replace it. The fire also destroyed popular Telegraph Avenue spots Café Intermezzo, Raleigh’s bar and La Fiesta. The building’s replacement would include two restaurants with courtyard access. The design calls for a U-shaped building around a courtyard with the entrances to the two restaurants on Telegraph, as before. Access to the apartments would be through a gated forecourt on Haste. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: The project received a use permit from the zoning board in July 2013 and had its final design review session, with approval, in October.

Image: Panoramic Interests

2701 Shattuck Ave. A controversial “micro-unit” mixed-used proposal struggled through the city review process in 2013, and was rejected by the zoning board in December when commissioners said the project was out-of-scale with the surrounding neighborhood. San Francisco-based Axis Development group had presented a five-story project that was set to include 67 units ranging in size from 269 to 344 square feet, as well as a roughly 2,000-square-foot full-service restaurant with valet parking, and a small parking garage. As an aside, a residential hotel proposal planned next door, in development by Patrick Kennedy, is reportedly still alive, though there are no indications of imminent action. Read more on Berkeleyside. Status: Instead of appealing the zoning board’s ruling, an Axis rep said this week, the company is moving forward with previously won entitlements that allow for 23 units above a street-level commercial and parking podium, and a separate townhouse unit, for a total of 24 units (four inclusionary) and five stories. The existing entitlements also include 24 parking spaces and approximately 3,200 square feet of retail space. (See those specifications here.)

Image: The Bay Architects

Stranda House The city approved plans in 2005 for a 21-unit mixed-use building, with an average height of 53 feet, set to include 1,725 square feet of commercial space at 2489 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The approved project, on the former site of the Dwight & King Drop-Off Recycling Center, was slated to include three affordable units. Read more on Berkeleyside hereStatus: Site preparation began in November 2013. According to a construction worker on site at that time, the project is expected to take about a year to complete. Official representatives from Overaa Construction, the apparent construction management company, declined to respond to multiple requests for information.

See more of Berkeleyside’s past real estate coverage here. We invite readers to alert us to new projects or construction around the city. Send a note to with details. Photographs are always appreciated.

Improving Telegraph Ave. on new UC official’s ‘to-do’ list (12.17.13)
Berkeley aims to bolster housing fund with fee discount (02.21.13)
1,000 new apartments planned for downtown Berkeley (02.07.13)

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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...