A rendering shows the 26-story housing development proposed at 2128 Oxford St. in downtown Berkeley.
An architect’s rendering shows the 26-story apartment building planned for 2128 Oxford St. (at Center Street) in downtown Berkeley. Credit: DLR Group

The student housing developer who pitched a 17-story apartment complex across from UC Berkeley last year is taking its plans to new heights.

A revised proposal submitted this month by Chicago-based Core Spaces now calls for its Hub Berkeley project to rise 26 stories above the intersection of Oxford and Center streets. The building would include 485 apartments — about 200 more than the developer, who has built similar student-centric Hub complexes in college towns across the country, initially proposed.

Plans call for the project to include a 4,000-square-foot restaurant on its top floor, part of 13,500 total square feet of commercial space in the complex.

At 288 feet, the project is the tallest of three planned high-rise downtown apartment buildings now in the city’s approval pipeline. Developers have also proposed a slightly shorter 26-story building at 1974 Shattuck Ave. and a 25-story project at 2190 Shattuck Ave.

Any of those projects, if they are approved and built, would be the biggest structure in downtown Berkeley, where proposals for large apartment buildings have sparked long and bitter fights between residents resistant to high-rise development and those who argue the transit-rich and campus-adjacent area is the ideal place to build tall, dense housing.

“The need for housing, and housing in the downtown, is at an all-time high,” said development consultant Mark Rhoades, who is working with Core Spaces on the Hub Berkeley project and is part of the development team for 1974 Shattuck Ave. “It makes the most sense to put that transit-oriented density right here.”

Hub Berkeley would be a much larger development overall than the other two proposed towers. Whereas the projects on Shattuck Avenue would each occupy corner lots, neither of which is bigger than 20,000 square feet, the Hub Berkeley property is made up of two parcels that cover just over 35,000 square feet in total. Along with the 26-story tower at the corner of the lot, a segment of the building nearly matching that height would extend down much of the 2100 block of Center Street.

The project would replace what is now a popular strip of restaurants along Center and Oxford streets; the development team has told city officials it is providing relocation assistance to those businesses, and will offer them space in the new building.

A rendering shows the ground floor of the proposed 26-story Hub Berkeley apartment building at the corner of Oxford and Center streets.
A rendering shows plans for the ground floor of the proposed 26-story Hub Berkeley apartment complex, at the intersection of Center and Oxford streets in downtown Berkeley. Credit: DLR Group

Rhoades said Core Spaces decided to pursue a taller project after seeing how plans for 2190 Shattuck Ave. exceeded Berkeley’s downtown height caps thanks to California’s density bonus law, which lets developers build beyond local zoning limits if their projects include affordable housing.

The proposal for Hub Berkeley now calls for including 47 affordable units — 42 for renters who are considered very low income and five for those considered extremely low income — which allow the project to soar past the 180-foot height cap set in Berkeley’s 2012 Downtown Area Plan. Core Spaces will also pay about $10 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund to satisfy affordability requirements. The company’s previous proposal did not include any on-site affordable housing.

The proposed building would include a parking garage with space for 45 cars, as well as storage for more than 300 bicycles.

Rhoades said the development team hopes to secure city approval for Hub Berkeley over the next year under the expedited process Berkeley created to comply with SB 330, a 2019 state housing law which limits the number of meetings cities can hold about a project. Construction, which Rhoades estimated would likely take three years, could start by the end of 2023.

As for the other two proposed downtown high-rises, city planning staff said the project at 2190 Shattuck Ave. is undergoing environmental review, with public hearings expected sometime next year, while Rhoades said the development team for 1974 Shattuck Ave. is still putting together that project’s application.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...