Groundbreaking for new building on Sequoia site. Photo: Ted Friedman
A groundbreaking for a new building at 2441 Haste St., at Telegraph Avenue, on May 28. Among those pictured (left to right), the property’s owner, Kenneth Ent (fourth from left). His son Gregory is second from left. Photo: Ted Friedman

Construction work has begun on a new, 43,000-square-foot, mixed-use building at 2441 Haste St. and Telegraph Avenue, the site of the former Sequoia Apartments that burned down in a catastrophic fire in November 2011.

The new structure will include 42 apartments on four stories, and see the return of two popular Berkeley restaurants: Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Café Intermezzo, which will re-open at street level on Telegraph.

The new building will go some way toward addressing the blight on this particular Berkeley intersection, two of whose corners are vacant lots, with the long-vacant Cody’s bookstore space on the third.

On Wednesday last week, the property’s owner, Kenneth Ent, held an impromptu groundbreaking ceremony with family members and a construction crew to celebrate the beginning of the build.

A rendering of the mixed-use building underway at the former Sequoia Apartment site at 2441 Haste. Source: Kahn Design Associates

The new, contemporary building is designed by Berkeley architects Kahn Design Associates, working with developer ROEM and Tom Kirk Construction, among others.

The design calls for a U-shaped building around a courtyard — the 1916 Sequoia building also had a courtyard — with the entrances to the two restaurants on Telegraph, as before. Access to the apartments will be through a gated forecourt on Haste.

It has been just 14 months since Ent submitted an application to the city for the replacement building in February 2013. The project got the go-ahead from the Zoning Adjustments Board in July 2013. It is understood that the delay since then has been due to the need to raise money and settle a lawsuit brought by Ent against an elevator company. (The November 2011 fire started in an elevator shaft.)

Kenneth Ent’s son Gregory brought a box of legal documents from the case to the groundbreaking ceremony and told Berkeleyside contributing photographer Ted Friedman the case had been settled, thus allowing construction to begin. (Calls to Greg Ent had not been returned at press time.)

On May 28, the remaining Telegraph Avenue walls and retail façades of the old Sequoia building were torn down to make way for a new 42-unit apartment building, which will include two rebuilt restaurants, Raleigh’s and Intermezzo. Photo: Courtesy of Kirstie Bennett

Charles Kahn, principal at Kahn Design Associates, said the city had been cooperative in relation to the project from the outset.

“They are very supportive of revitalizing the street,” he said.

Kahn said a few minor adjustments had been made to the original design, as depicted on the rendering above, following an assessment by the city’s Design Review Committee. But the finished building will broadly look like the rendering, he said.

The old building was about 65 feet high and the new one will extend to 58 feet at its highest point, according to the submission. (Read the application.)

Ent said at the groundbreaking that he hoped the building would be completed within 18 months.

New building proposed for Sequoia site on Telegraph (02.27.13)
New Sproul design ideas provide optimism for Telegraph (11.29.12)
Popular restaurants closed by fires face further delays (05.31.12)
Can Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue get it mojo back? (04.18.12)
Imagining a future for Telegraph Avenue without blinders (04.11.12)
Telegraph fire site owner plans for temporary resurrection (02.06.12)
As Sequoia rubble removed, plans made for new structure (01.14.12)
Telegraph named a disaster zone to help the fire-affected (12.14.11)
Sequoia fire aftermath: Cause, rights, future (12.07.11)
Berkeley’s 95-year-old Sequoia Building is brought down (11.29.11)
‘Largest fire since 1991’ leaves many locals homeless (11.19.11)
Urban think tank: Student visions for blighted Telegraph lot (10.03.11)

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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...