On South Shattuck Avenue signs of renewal and growth are banishing the has-been image of the commercial corridor that has endured years of neglect.
“We have been kind of the forgotten part of Berkeley,” said Suzan Steinberg, owner of Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, at 2518 Shattuck.
She is the fourth-generation operator of the “old-fashioned fabric store” that serves the neighborhood as well as the region and is a destination for regional customers.
Steinberg believes the commitment of the merchants and the neighborhood organizations and the efforts of the city have created the revitalization. She said the longtime merchants such as herself and General Appliance have a working relationship with the surrounding community and count the neighbors as regular customers.
Stonemountain is at the north end of what is considered to be South Shattuck, the stretch from Haste Street to Ashby Avenue, but signs of revitalization appear even further south.
Recently the city’s manager of economic development, Bill Lambert, pinpointed 15 locations on South Shattuck Avenue and Adeline Street where new businesses or other organizations are in place or on the drawing board.
Lambert drew a picture as far south as the BART Station parking lot on Ashby to illustrate the emerging strength of the corridor.
The Ed Roberts Campus intends to buy part of the parking lot at the Ashby BART station and the city’s air rights over the BART Station to build an 80,000-square-foot office building alongside the station.
Lambert said the city, BART and Ed Roberts Campus have a conceptual agreement and the project is now in the fund-raising stage. The structure will house disabled rights and independent living activist group in a setting easily accessible by public transportation.
A distinguishing aspect of the project would include an international conference center. Lambert envisions traffic via BART from the San Francisco Airport that will bring international visitors to Berkeley.
He recently accepted an award for the city from the California Association for Local Economic Development for his department’s efforts in helping the Berkeley Bowl move into the site of the former Safeway supermarket.
It took more than four years for the produce giant to finally land in the 42,000-square-foot space at 2020 Oregon St.
“If it weren’t for Tom Myers and Dave Fogarty (economic development staffers), we wouldn’t have done it,” said Glenn Yasuda, owner of the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace.
He said the city was instrumental in his being able to purchase the property across the street from the smaller store he operated for 20 years - which itself was a re-use of a former bowling alley.
He said the city also waived some fees and expedited the permit process so he could open the anchor full-service supermarket as soon as possible. Yasuda has been in the new space for about one year.
The neighbors provided the original impetus for getting a full-service supermarket, said Max Anderson, a member of the Alcatraz Avenue Neighborhood Association.
“We had to fight back the attempt to put a McFrugal store,’’ he said of the discount merchandiser. “It would have retarded the economic life of that corridor.
“We held out for something that would better serve seniors who had come to depend on the Safeway.”
Anderson said the Adeline corridor is the last commercial strip to receive attention from the city. He said Solano, College and University avenues have benefited from city resources, and now it’s Adeline Street’s turn to receive formal planning.
The points on Lambert’s map with entrances on Adeline Street include a new Walgreen’s Drug Store. Lambert said Walgreen’s plans to spend $1million to renovate the former Rite-Aid space.
Further south at Ashby and Adeline, the Cooperative Federal Credit Union will remodel the building vacated by the Bank of America. Lambert noted that several banks have left the area in the last 20 years.
The city applied to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and received an award of $1 million for pedestrian oriented improvement on Adeline between Shattuck and the Oakland border. The city will add another $200,000 making it a $1.2 million project, he said.
In the city’s “South Shattuck Strategic Plan,” published in 1998, the planning process was identified as originating with three neighborhood groups.
The Community Committee for a Full-Service Supermarket, Ward Street Neighbors and South Shattuck Neighbors joined with the LeConte Neighborhood Association and the United Neighborhood Watch to request a formal planning process for the corridor.
One of their concerns was the 1995 city-approved bid of a Hollywood Video Store to open an outlet at Derby Street, which eventually became the site of Reel Video.
Rob Wrenn, now chair of the Planning Commission, said neighbors feared the impact of traffic that Hollywood Video intended to reach the site from Derby. Concerns also were expressed about having a corporate store in the neighborhood.
Hollywood Video backed out of the deal fearing a boycott, he said. Reel Video agreed to provide access on the Shattuck side.
“It was a real effort by the neighborhood to shape development of a site compatible with the neighborhood and Reel Video has been very successful,” said Wrenn.
He said the neighbors have pushed for improvements because they’re repelled by blight and they’re concerned about what kind of development comes in.
Like Suzan Steinberg’s assessment of Shattuck revitalization, Wrenn said neighbors want the kind of businesses they can patronize.
He said a big box office supply store wanted to move into the space vacated by the Berkeley Bowl but the neighbors opposed it, and Any Mountain, an outdoors outfitter, now occupies the space.
In the South Shattuck Strategic Plan the city’s economic development aim is to encourage neighborhood-serving businesses, mixed-use buildings with retail stores on the first floor, and housing above, and to join with business owners and residents in the process.
Another goal is to address the problem of seriously blighted properties in the South Shattuck area with code enforcement and assistance to property owners.
One building on the block between Parker and Carleton remains an eyesore, but the owner of the building, Reza Valiyee of Leaders Universal Industries, said he wants to be part of the revitalization process but the opposition from neighbors and difficulty in obtaining permits has stymied him.
He said he has owned the building on that block for l5 years and that it needs only cosmetic changes. He had it seismically refitted before the practice became fashionable, he said.
But he praised the city for its help in turning the Jim Doten Honda property at 2600 Shattuck that he owns “into a place that everyone says is beautiful.”
Lambert said Leaders Universal has ongoing code violations and that the city currently is working with Valiyee to try to rectify some of them, and to bring in development assistance on the property between Parker and Carleton.
In providing economic assistance retailers and property owners, the city has provided $25,000 for a façade facelift for the 2500 block containing Stonemountain & Daughter.
Steinberg said the work is mostly painting, but also includes working with an architect and obtaining three-dimensional signage that will give the entire block an identity.
A $60,000 grant from the city will provide tree grates and planters in front of stores on Shattuck between Dwight Way and Ward Street.
John Gordon of Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, owns two properties at 2567 and at 2450 Shattuck.
He said the 2567 building was known as the Berkeley Free Market in 1906. In renovating it, he said he tried to stay as close to the original materials as possible but the terra cotta front was removed in the 1940s.
He received support in learning about the structure’s history from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and the building is slated to become a Berkeley city landmark.
The building is mixed use, which is what the strategic plan requests. It has two spaces available for lease on the ground floor and 13 artists who rent the top floor for day studios.
The other location was formerly the Penny Saver Market and the renovation work is almost completed, he said. It will become the home of Aaron Brothers Framing and Art Supplies.
“We feel that South Shattuck is an area that has underutilized buildings and we feel that it