Another large industrial parcel in West Berkeley is up for sale.
The Jones family, which has owned 8.7 acres by Aquatic Park since 1979, is selling three addresses: the old American Soil & Stone property at 600 Addison St.; 91 Bolivar Dr., currently the home of Plexxikon, a drug discovery company; and 2222 Third St., which houses OpenROV, an underwater drone maker.
The Jones family, operating as Aquatic Park Science Center II, have hired JLL, a commercial real estate company, to sell the land. It is being marketed as the Berkeley Innovation & Technology Park, a “singular piece of property close to Interstate 80 with views of San Francisco, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.”
“With the scarcity of developable land in the area, this site represents a once in a generation opportunity for a developer or owner-user to acquire a rare property for the creation of an outstanding office or R&D life science campus in the San Francisco Bay Area,” reads the marketing materials.
Bids on the property are due soon, according to someone with knowledge of the process who did not want to be named. The sales price is not public. However, current rents generate $1.3 million a year, according to the brochure.
While the property is for sale, that does not mean the family will actually sell it, said Jason Jones, son of Charles Jones who bought the property in 1979. The offer has to be good enough, he said.
He did not want to elaborate on why the family has put it up for sale.
“I don’t really want to say too much because we have tried to keep ourselves out of the news and out of the limelight,” said Jones. “Life is easier if you are invisible.”
Three major West Berkeley properties are now on the market
This is the second large industrial property in West Berkeley that has gone on the market recently. The 8.6-acre site at 1333 Second St. that housed Pacific Steel Casting for 84 years is being marketed as the “Gilman Gateway.” Bids for that property, which include around 10 buildings, are due to Cushman and Wakefield, the commercial real estate brokers, on March 29. Dozens of people who came to a recent community meeting about the site expressed a desire to see it turn into an innovative industrial hub.
Wareham Development is also selling the Fantasy Building at 2600 Tenth St. The structure once housed Fantasy Studios and the Saul Zaentz company.
Land for industrial uses is in high demand in the Bay Area, and both of the industrial properties are being marketed as unusual opportunities to find or create space for industry.
The Jones family property is zoned MU-LI, or “mixed-use light industrial.” The land can be used for commercial offices, R&D, and life science, light industrial and pharmacological uses. The Pacific Steel Casting property is zoned M, for manufacturing, which affords less flexibility, although a zoning overlay allows a car dealership to be located there. The land can also hold cannabis grow sites. Berkeley officials have indicated they are open to changing the zoning on the Pacific Steel Casting site to MU-LI, too.
The Jones family property is bounded by Bolivar Drive and Aquatic Park to the west, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the east, Addison Street to the north, and Bancroft Way to the south.
The land is integral to Berkeley’s history
The parcel that is for sale is an important part of Berkeley’s history, even though an architectural consultant determined in 2017 that no historic structures remain.
In 1875, Richard Parks Thomas constructed the Standard Soap Company on a full block of Third Street, according to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. The factory manufactured many different kinds of laundry and hand soaps. The company also ran a ferry to San Francisco, according to BAHA.
Peet Brothers of Kansas City acquired the soap company in 1916 and it was eventually absorbed into the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet “empire,” Charles Wollenberg wrote in his book, Berkeley: A City in History.
Many decades later, in 1997, Charles Jones purchased the property from Dymo, according to a history prepared by his family. Jones leased out buildings, warehouse space, and land to many different entities over the years, including Berkeley Lab, a company called Consilient, Audubon Cellars & Winery, Takara Sake, Fathom Engineering, Triangle Paints and American Soils.
In 2011, the Jones family teamed up with Steven and Michael Goldin, who had property next door, to offer a 12.5-acre parcel along Aquatic Park for a second site for Lawrence Berkeley Lab. After UC Berkeley chose another site in Richmond (plans for which it eventually suspended), the Jones family, in 2015, applied to the city of Berkeley for a master-use permit. Charles and Jason Jones proposed to build a new life sciences engineering campus on the property.
The Joneses dropped their quest for a master lease in February 2018 after the Zoning Adjustments Board asked for a more fully designed plan than what had been presented.
“The Jones family, not being developers, refused to go down that path,” said Joe DeCredico, whose Joe DeCredico Studio steered the project through the planning process. “So Jason [Jones] has put it up for sale.”
The real estate company marketing the land points out that it sits amid a number of life sciences companies, and is only 1.2 miles from UC Berkeley.
“Berkeley and Emeryville continue to be the East Bay’s primary life sciences hub, anchored by companies like Bayer Healthcare, Novartis, Siemens, Amyris Biotechnologies, Zymergen and Aduro Biotech,” according to the brochure.
But any plan to erect large R&D or office buildings on the site might meet opposition if the community’s reaction to the idea of making that area a second campus for Berkeley Lab is any indication. While many civic leaders and business people championed what was being called Aquatic Park West, others expressed concern that large building would not be appropriate for the area. It abuts Aquatic Park, which serves as a recreational area and is home to many birds.