Farm Burger will open its first West Coast restaurant in West Berkeley. Photo: Sara Hanna Photography

A new shopping destination is emerging at the intersection of 10th and Gilman streets in West Berkeley. Three new businesses have just signed leases to move into the Gilman District, a commercial hub whose transition was kickstarted by Whole Foods’ decision to move into the area last year.

Soccer Pro and Road Runner Sports are both opening up in the complex formerly known as Gilman Village, and Jason Mann will open the first west coast outlet of Farm Burger, a farm-to-table restaurant that hopes to incorporate a boutique-style craft brewery. They will join Philz Coffee and Doughnut Dolly as new tenants who have already signed leases.

Office Depot is already up and running in the mall after moving from across the street at 1025 Gilman to make way for the new Whole Foods (which does not have an opening date yet). T-Rex BBQ, which is still at 1300 10th St. in the same block as the Gilman District, is not part of the re-development which is being spearheaded by Retail West.

See the master plan of Gilman shopping district area.

Speaking about the choice of businesses, Matt Holmes, principal of the San Francisco-based Retail West, said: “We looked at the strengths of being among active lifestyle retailers like REI, Whole Foods and North Face Outlet and wanted to add to the flavor of the area. We specifically recruited the best of two respective niche and specialty sporting categories: running and soccer. Both activities are prevalent in West Berkeley and the project’s proximity to the running trails and soccer fields at the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex ultimately helped our cause a great deal.”

Holmes added that Soccer Pro is already partnering with sports teams that play at the Tom Bates fields. The chain has two existing stores, in Belmont and Redwood City.

Gilman Village pre-development. It is now called the Gilman District and has a slew of new commercial tenants. Image: Google Maps
Gilman Village pre-development. It is now called the Gilman District and has a slew of new commercial tenants. Image: Google Maps

The renovation included building a patio for outdoor seating and there is still one small space that is available for lease which, Holmes said, would be suitable for a café or beverage vendor.

Holmes said he expects the two sports stores to draw a community of runners and soccer players to the area, both for shopping and events, such as organized runs. Road Runner Sports has stores across the country, including a dozen in California.

Speaking about Farm Burger, Holmes who, with his wife, runs Asian-inspired restaurant Boo Koo in Mill Valley, said he is “thrilled” to have secured Farm Burger. “I predict it will soon be as popular as Picante and Vik’s Chaat Corner in West Berkeley,” he said.

Farm Burger has three locations in Atlanta, Georgia, and one in Asheville, North Carolina. Mann, who graduated UC Berkeley and lived in the city for eights years, between 1994 and 2002, also founded Full Moon and Moonshine Meats, a farm collective and restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Mann’s ethos is very much in keeping with local mores in that his restaurants are committed to buying from local farmers who raise their cattle humanely and sustainability is made a priority.

He said the restaurants, which are not franchised, are careful to partner with the best local ranchers and have a vertically integrated operation for sourcing and processing their meat. The restaurants are not all about burgers, however, as they offer vegan and vegetarian dishes, as well as gluten free options.

Mann, who volunteered at the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School at its inception, said he cut his culinary teeth in Berkeley, “exploring organic agriculture and food systems in the gardens and backrooms” of the city, and he’s pleased to be opening here.

“I owe that community so much,” he said. “Berkeley inspired my craft and intellect leading me onto the farmers’ path.”

Mann said he opted to take his work outside the locavore cocoon of the Bay Area into communities that really needed and wanted a new approach, which is why he settled in the south east.

But he recently relocated to San Diego and was happy when the opportunity to open up in Berkeley presented itself.

He is particularly taken with West Berkeley.

“I have always loved the potential of West Berkeley. its such a ripe environment for creativity and community,” he said. “I’m looking forward to engaging with that community.”

In the past, tenants at what was then Gilman Village included garden outlet store Smith & Hawken, which closed in 2009, Turkish towel importer Forza & Home, which moved to Fourth Street, TravelSmith, and home design store Trove. Ethnic Arts moved out in late 2012 to make way for Office Depot, and is now at 2236 San Pablo Avenue.

Soccer Pro and Road Runner Sports are expected to open by May, with Farm Burger slated for around September.

This story was updated when new information became available. Read more about the new Gilman shopping district on Berkeleyside.

Whole Foods confirms it will open new Berkeley store (02.13.13)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...