The Common Bosco building offers a rooftop deck to residents. Courtesy of Common

University Avenue boasts a new building that not only meets an urgent need for more housing — especially student housing —  it also meets the highest standards for eco-friendly buildings. The Oakland-based developer, Heidi Lubin, is passionate about co-living and environmental sustainability.

“My expertise is in renewable energy and missing-middle housing,” said Lubin, who teamed up with Matt Fialho of LineFiftyThree for this project, called Common Bosco.

 “We hoped to create naturally occurring affordable and missing-middle housing that will help to solve our current housing crisis. Too much of our national housing stock is designed to separate people from one another,” she said. “I’m more interested in housing that brings people together and supports civic engagement.” 

The new building on University, near McGee, is designed to do just that — bring people together. Common Bosco offers furnished units with anywhere from two to six bedrooms, in which tenants rent a private bedroom and share the kitchen and living space. The five-story building houses 48 such private bedrooms.

The building is managed by Common, which operates properties in 12 U.S. cities.  While Common staff expect many of the new tenants to be students — both undergraduate and graduate students — they stress that the property is open to all, and could be very convenient for traveling professionals looking for shorter leases, as well as for young professionals or anyone looking for a convenient housing solution.

Groups of friends can rent a unit, or individuals can rent single rooms in a shared suite and meet new people, which can be ideal for those who are new to Berkeley.

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Common Bosco suites come with furnishings and kitchenware. Courtesy of Common

Common has furnished all the units with design-forward furniture from brands like Article, Floyd and Bludot. Included in every bedroom is a bed, a desk, a side table, and lamps. The common space comes with living room furniture, a TV, a dining table and chairs, kitchen utensils, appliances and even household essentials like cleaning supplies and toilet paper. 

Another bonus to living at Common Bosco is the app, Connect by Common, that makes it easy to connect with neighbors, RSVP to curated, free events exclusive to Common members, and enjoy perks from local and national brands.

The building offers an array of amenities, including coworking spaces, laundry facilities, a bike room, an indoor community lounge with a large deck, and a wraparound rooftop deck with stunning views of Berkeley and the bay. Utilities are included in the rent.

 The Common Bosco building offers a furnished community lounge with terrace for residents. Courtesy of Common

Freedom from monthly utility bills is an economic perk of the stem-to-stern efficiency of the building. The building includes solar panels with battery back-up system, heat pumps for heating and cooling, and domestic hot water systems. The building has been awarded a GreenPoint Platinum rating. GreenPointRated is a green-building rating system equivalent to LEED, and the award is roughly equivalent to a LEED Platinum certification.

Developer committed to green building

The developer, Lubin, is a former attorney and serial clean-tech entrepreneur, who had long been interested in green building. She is now the CEO of the Oakland company eSix Development Partners, and built California’s first ground-up, all-electric, multifamily housing development in Oakland in 2019. 

Lubin decided to shift her focus to real estate development because the technology had matured enough to allow green building at scale. She also aimed to demonstrate climate-sensitive real estate development and, in so doing, continue to build the market for cleantech and sustainability. 

Lubin herself had experience with co-living, on a kibbutz in Israel and in cooperative housing at the University of Michigan. “I was struck by how you could encourage community within a single building or living space,” she said.  “And not only are these spaces more affordable and more amenitized but the shared space is also inherently more environmental.”

For too long, however, the country, even the most eco-corners of it, wasn’t ready for a Common Bosco. But in 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the country to enact an all-electric building code; 76 jurisdictions in California, alone, followed suit.

 “While developers around the country have built all-electric buildings for years, Berkeley, to its great credit, was the first to make it policy,” Lubin said. The development team hopes that buildings like Common Bosco will effectively — and beautifully — make the case for themselves.

The new Common Bosco building on University near McGee Avenue has a platinum rating for sustainability. Courtesy of Common

“It’s not merely the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. And I mean that in terms of long-term investment. We intend for this building, over time, to provide resiliency and to help demonstrate that operating expenses are more stable and lead to more savings.”  

And if other developers want to copy Common Bosco, that’s great. “We hope people do emulate the model,” she said. “Buildings like this create a virtuous cycle. They provide transit-oriented housing, and facilitate community in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and enjoyable to live in. We would love to inspire other people.” 

That includes Berkeleyans, to whom the team extends an open invitation to visit. “Whether they come to live here or are just visiting, we hope people get to experience the place, to see the roof deck and the amenities. Or just get a feel for what is possible to accomplish with a single building.”