A rendering of a 7-story building proposed on Telegraph to take the place of The Village. Image: Pyatok Architects
A rendering of a 7-story building proposed on Telegraph to take the place of The Village. Image: Pyatok Architects

A quaint shopping mall on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue — the site of restaurants Norikonoko, Finfiné, Koryo and Fondue Fred — along with the adjacent electronics shop, have been proposed for demolition to make way for a 76-unit 7-story mixed-use building without parking.

According to the developer, “many of the tenants” that operate on the property — called “The Village” — have said they might simply close rather than try to find new locations elsewhere.

The developer said in project documents, submitted to the city April 21, that the units will be marketed to students, couples and young professionals alike. A proposed rooftop deck fronting on Telegraph will offer residents “sweeping views of the bay,” along with “a variety of seating, shading, planting and other amenities.”

The developer plans to include 11% affordable units on site for people making 50% of the area median income, or $32,550 ($37,200 for a couple). “Prominent retail storefront” is planned on Telegraph, with a lobby and lounge proposed on Blake Street for tenants of the residential units. A bike storage room is set to include one bike space for each unit, but no vehicle parking is proposed. 

Above and to the right: a rendering of a 7-story building proposed on Telegraph to take the place of The Village. Image: Pyatok Architects
Developers have proposed a new building at The Village on Telegraph Avenue. Photo: Tim Kelley Consulting

The applicant — Telegraph/Blake LLC — is seeking a density bonus to increase the project from 4 to 7 stories, along with an expansion of the allowed commercial space, from 1,850 to 2,776 square feet, to help off-set the cost of the below-market-rate units on site. Telegraph/Blake bought the property last July.

According to co-owner Cody Fornari, who wrote the project’s applicant statement, a number of sustainable features are under consideration at 2556 Telegraph: “We are currently perusing, Solar PV, Solar thermal, GreenPoint rated, Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, Car free design, Bicycle share, a Green roof, Infiltration planters, Low flow plumbing fixtures, Drought tolerant landscaping, Green construction methods and Green streets.”

See the project plan set, applicant statement and other documents.

The development team has held two meetings thus far for neighbors to learn more about the project and collect community feedback. According to notes from those meetings that were submitted to the city, one neighbor described a project design presented in January as “disgusting.” Neighbors have expressed concern about noise, and have asked for various mitigations — including restrictions about parties and “loud talking” on the roof, and the potential for a “living fence” to reduce noise.

One person, according to those notes, “expressed concern for the commercial tenants and asked if they will be provided with funds to relocate.” Fornari reported that “many of the tenants have stated they might close as opposed to relocate,” and said the owner had not discussed money for relocation. He said it was too early to estimate retail rents for the new development.

Neighbors also said they were not pleased that no parking had been proposed in the building, “and explained that parking in the neighborhood can be difficult at times.” According to the developer, parking is not required by the city for mixed-use projects in the Telegraph Avenue commercial zone.

The latest proposal, submitted to the city in April, of Patrick Kennedy’s Telegraph Avenue project. Image: Lowney Architecture

One neighbor also was worried about cumulative impacts in the neighborhood given the new project as well as the 70-unit building proposed across the street by developer Patrick Kennedy at 2539 Telegraph, shown above. That project, which is still working its way through the approval process, is proposed to reach 6 stories, with an eight-car garage.

Fornari said construction is expected to take 1-1.5 years, but “could easily take longer.” In response to a question about whether the units would be rentals or condos, Fornari said that had not been determined.

According to project documents, units are set to include 36 studios at 460 square feet, 23 one-bedrooms at 550 square feet, and 17 two-bedrooms at 742 square feet. Two live-work units, at 755 square feet, are also proposed.

Fornari, of San Francisco-based development firm Realtex, won approval last year to build a mixed-used project at 1698 University Ave. (at McGee). That five-story building — a former auto repair station that is now a vacant lot — is slated to include 36 units.

The site, as shown in the 1950 Sanborn Map. Source: Tim Kelley Consulting

The building at 2556 Telegraph was constructed originally in 1946, according to a “historical resource evaluation” commissioned by the developer. An addition — what is now Eid’s Electronics at the corner of Blake and Telegraph — was built in 1962.

The report, by Tim Kelley Consulting, concluded that the structure does not appear eligible for any historic or landmark protections or designations.

In 1944, Harry Doten bought the property at 2556 Telegraph to expand upon an earlier business he’d taken over — a Pontiac dealership and service center called University Motors — at 2566 Telegraph to the south. Doten built a new garage, called Doten Pontiac, and connected it to his business next door. Doten’s son, Don, ultimately took over the business and became partners with Ed Cunha in the early 60s. The dealership operated until 1969 or 1970, according to the Tim Kelley report, when it briefly became a motorcycle repair shop.

“The building was renovated in 1971-72, with the interior carved into small retail and restaurant spaces, the use that continues today,” Kelley wrote. “The building is largely unchanged since that renovation, aside from the addition and updating of restaurant equipment and restrooms.”

Illuminated signage designating the property “The Village” went up in 1980.

Review before the city’s zoning and design review panels has not yet been scheduled. Berkeleyside has requested additional information from Fornari, and will continue to follow the project.

Read more real estate stories, and coverage of Telegraph Avenue, on Berkeleyside. For more information about 2556 Telegraph Ave., contact Cody Fornari at 415-329-6599, or cody@RealtexGroup.com.

Decades-old mural could derail Berkeley apartment project (11.25.14)
5-story building approved, again, on University Avenue (07.24.14)
Neighbors question parking, height of student-oriented housing planned on Telegraph (07.16.14)

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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...