Sather Tower has stood for more than a century as the tallest structure in Berkeley — but its days with that distinction could be numbered.
Developers submitted a revised proposal this week for a bigger and taller planned apartment complex at the corner of Shattuck and University avenues, which would rise to a total height of 317 feet. That beats out UC Berkeley’s iconic Campanile by 10 feet, though the bell tower would still reign supreme in the Berkeley skyline given its higher elevation.
The 28-story building at 1998 Shattuck Ave. would contain 599 apartments along with commercial space, including a rooftop restaurant.
A development team made up of the firms NX Ventures, Rhoades Planning Group and Trachtenberg Architects submitted plans for the site in June that envisioned a 297-unit project rising almost 280 feet above the busy downtown intersection, replacing a McDonald’s, Spats bar and other businesses.
Since then, NX Ventures’ Nathan George has entered into contracts to buy two neighboring properties: a building along University Avenue that today has a Tendergreens and Milkbomb Ice Cream, and another at the corner of Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue with several more restaurants. Those additional parcels would create a larger 27,488-square-foot lot for the planned apartment project, which would span the entire block of Shattuck between University Avenue and Berkeley Way.
The revised plans were first reported by SFYIMBY.com.
Two other developers looking to build large downtown apartment projects have also changed their proposals to make them taller in recent months. A Chicago student housing developer who filed plans for a 16-story building called Hub Berkeley at the intersection of Center and Oxford streets in 2021 has since revised its proposal to 26 stories, while a long-planned project at 2190 Shattuck Ave. has gone from 18 stories to 25.
Berkeley went through a contentious years-long process to create a Downtown Area Plan that limited both the height and number of tall buildings in the city’s core to three structures of at most 180 feet. But builders are able to sail past that height limit thanks to California’s “density bonus” law, which allows developers to exceed local limits in exchange for including affordable housing in their projects.
Plans for the 1998 Shattuck Ave. project call for 60 of its units to be affordable for renters who are considered very low income, which in Berkeley means an individual who makes no more than $50,000 or a family of four that makes no more than $71,400; the project will also pay an affordable housing fee to the city.
George said he didn’t set out to build Berkeley’s tallest-ever structure, but that the additional height was a product of the larger property and density bonus.
“It’s really just the nature of how we’ve decided to shape the massing of the project,” he said.
The development team is still putting together specific plans for the building, which could include amenities such as a pool on its 14th-floor roof deck. Drawings show a basement parking garage with 129 spots for residents and 25 for commercial tenants, plus storage space for 268 bicycles.
George said the development team plans to submit a full project application early next year.