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Berkeley board approves 156-unit apartment building

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Board flies high on 1951 Shattuck project

Rendering of contemporary 12-story apartment building in Berkeley. Rendering courtesy of Courtesy Grosvenor

Last week, a proposed 156-unit downtown Berkeley apartment building won a critical vote, and the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board heaped praise on the the big-by-Berkeley-standards 12-story project.

In fact, the plan at 1951 Shattuck proved so popular with board members that, according to Berkeleyside, Commissioner Igor Tregub called developer Grosvenor Americas “the gold standard,” while Commissioner John Selawsky asked, “Why can’t all applicants be as thorough, transparent, and cooperative?”

According to the application, Grosvenor Americas’ plan for 1951 Shattuck would be demolish two existing commercial buildings to make way for a new 12-story mixed-use building with 156 dwelling units, 5,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, and an underground parking lot that includes 100 parking spaces.

The building would measure roughly 120 feet tall, “plus a two-foot tall parapet, and rooftop architectural projections, which would extend up to approximately 137 feet.”

One of the existing buildings houses the Berkeley Vacuum and Sewing Center. However, the developer promises to help the business relocate to a similar downtown location as part of the construction deal.

Most of the proposed new homes are studios or one-bedroom apartments. In 2018, the developer said that units would average approximately 760 square feet. There are no plans for affordable housing in the building, although the developer will pay fees to create subsidized housing elsewhere.

While the 12-story proportions are fairly big for Berkeley, in a report submitted to the Zoning Board before the vote, city staffers praised Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s design for mitigating the building’s size:

While the new building would be larger and taller than many of its neighbors, the proposed exterior design would break up the large massing into smaller, distinct pieces. Horizontal lines articulated with varying materials and planes would connect with heights and lines at neighboring buildings, including the adjacent commons and eight-story UC building.

The new nonresidential floor area at the ground floor would provide modern storefronts and attractive pedestrian experiences along one of Berkeley’s main commercial and pedestrian-oriented corridors.

Solomon Cordwell Buenz also currently owns the property, according to the application.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the project at Thursday’s meeting, with Commissioner Patrick Sheahan voting against the proposal because he thought the design didn’t fully comply with the city’s downtown area plan.