Proposed changes at Berkeley Plaza on Harold Way. Image: JRDV Architects

On Monday, four years after the City Council approved plans for a new 18-story high-rise on Harold Way, the project team submitted its building permit application to the city of Berkeley.

The submittal means work at Berkeley Plaza, at 2211 Harold Way, could begin toward the end of spring 2020, said Mark Rhoades, the consultant who has been shepherding the project through the city’s permitting process.

“It is an exciting moment,” he told Berkeleyside on Tuesday. “It’s been a lot of work.”

The Berkeley City Council approved the use permit for Harold Way in December 2015 after a lengthy process that involved many community meetings. Within weeks, multiple lawsuits had been filed that delayed work on the project from continuing. By the end of 2016, those legal challenges had failed and developer Hill Street Realty pushed forward with its plans.

The project is currently under review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and will also appear before the Design Review Committee “for comments and input on technical, design-related aspects of the proposal as well as possible improvements to the design of this major development project,” according to a recent staff report.

Once complete, the mixed-use complex on Shattuck Avenue at Kittredge Street would be one of seven tall buildings approved by voters under the Downtown Area Plan in 2010.

Plans for Harold Way include 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.

Rhoades said the project team has requested some changes to the application approved by council in 2015, including a reduction from 10 theaters to six at the request of Shattuck Cinemas. The movie theater says it will continue to offer short-run and limited-release films when it reopens, he said.

Rhoades said the inclusion of the theaters in the new building, as well as its other community benefits and fees, had made it more difficult to get financing for the deal.

“With the additional money required by the city, it’s just not an easy project to put together,” he said.

Rhoades said he wasn’t privy to the latest news on project financing but noted that the developers were making a serious investment by proceeding at this stage. The plan check fee alone, he said, is nearly $1 million.

“It’ll be exciting when the ground breaks,” he said Tuesday.

In addition to changes with the theaters, the project team has also asked to reduce the unit count by about 10 from the original 302 proposed. Rhoades said Harold Way will still pay the full fees it had previously committed to pay.

The project team has also asked if it can reduce the parking to the minimum required because plans for a third level underground ended up running into water intrusion and geotechnical issues, he said.

Rhoades said the project likely won’t go back to the LPC until February after a preliminary session there in December. The LPC will lead the final design review process, he said.

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...