Berkeley Plaza at 2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architects California

City staff has given the Berkeley Plaza complex at Harold Way another year to seek its building permit, according to a planning department letter sent Friday.

In July, the team asked for one more year to do the work that must happen before applying for the building permit. It was the third deadline extension the team has sought for the large, complicated development at 2211 Harold Way.

Friday, Planning Director Timothy Burroughs told a project representative the city would grant the extension, “but the project team will need to move swiftly to demonstrate to the City and the broader community that this third extension will result in a different result and that the project will get built consistent with City approvals,” according to a letter obtained by Berkeleyside.

Project rep Mark Rhoades told Berkeleyside the team is “very pleased” about the decision and has already begun the pre-construction design work needed before the building permit application can be submitted.

“This will allow us to proceed much more quickly now into a higher level of construction drawing,” Rhoades said. He described 2211 Harold Way as an “extraordinarily complex project because of its location, construction technique and adjacency to historic resources,” such as the Hotel Shattuck Plaza.

Rhoades said the extension letter would let the team ramp up its efforts because it now has the assurance that there is enough time to do the necessary work.

He indicated developers could submit their application for the first round of building permits in the spring of 2019.

Harold Way simulation, August 2015: Night view at a pedestrian level. Image: MVEI Architects California

According to the city’s letter, the project’s first two extension requests were the result of legal challenges to the project which concluded at the end of 2016. Burroughs wrote that the decision about whether to grant the latest request was not an easy one.

“In order to ascertain whether or not the extension is justified, the City must conduct significant due diligence,” he wrote. “The Use Permit allows for the Planning Department to extend the building permit application deadline, but we do not take that decision lightly.”

The city generally allows two years between the use permit approval and the issuance of a building permit before it decides whether to declare a project “lapsed” — which can render a use permit void.

The city considered “several factors” in relation to the latest Berkeley Plaza request, according to the letter. They included the permit conditions as well as whether delays thus far have been “outside your client’s control.” The city also looked at whether the project team “is indeed making progress” as the current deadline of Jan. 10, 2019, nears.

Burroughs said in the letter that the city attempted to determine whether the extension would be fruitful, or simply “an additional year of delay.”

Ultimately, however, the city said it was satisfied by the project team’s answers to staff questions about construction drawings and project financing. The team’s update about the “opportunity zone” in downtown Berkeley — as it has been identified by the state — was also of interest, staff wrote.

These apparent “tangible steps” forward provided a basis to the city to allow it to grant the extension request, Burroughs wrote.

The development team now has until Jan. 10, 2020, to apply for its building permit.

Rhoades said it has been “difficult to put the financing together” for Berkeley Plaza because of the benefits package approved by the city. It includes a full-union project labor agreement, the reconstruction of the movie theaters at Shattuck Cinemas, $1 million for the arts and $10 million for affordable housing.

“We appreciate the city and the community’s patience,” Rhoades said. “We’re looking forward to bringing this package together for the city and to move the project forward.”

Harold Way is one of three buildings up to 180 feet tall approved by the voters under the Downtown Area Plan.

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 of the Year...