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What will happen to the strip mall?

Matthew Artz, Special to the Planet
Friday July 12, 2002

Developer Panoramic Interests bought the lot at 1950 Martin Luther King Jr Way, fueling speculation that the strip mall there will be razed for a building with apartments and commercial space. 

Currently on the property are Kragen Auto Parts, Radio Shack, and Pet Food Express, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Way and University Avenue. 

According to Berkeley Development Project Coordinator David Fogerty, Panoramic plans to redevelop the site and has already settled on Daniel Solomon of the architectural firm Solomon ETC to design a new building. Solomon designed the planned five-story Fine Arts building at 2471 Shattuck Ave. 

Chris Hudson, project manager at Panoramic, would not confirm the official’s statement, saying that his company had not decided what to do with the property and that a final decision would not be made for at least six months. 

However, Gregory Edwards, lead associate manager at Pet Foods Express, said that Panoramic is not interested in renewing the lease and plans to redevelop the site to include living and commercial spaces. 

All three stores operate under the same master lease, which expires at the end of next year, according to Hudson.  

Kragen has expressed interest in remaining at the site but said the offer was too low.  

The site is one of the few strip mall developments in downtown Berkeley, with a parking lot in front of the storefronts. Although Hudson refused to speculate on Panoramic’s intentions, he called the development "not particularly attractive" and said that his firm "does not like strip malls." 

Another potential strike against negotiating a new lease is building height. The property is zoned for four stories, but the current structure is only one.  

A new development would probably include ground-floor commercial space and three floors of apartments. This has been a popular formula for developers recently, as the region’s housing crisis has made downtown housing developments highly profitable. 

Berkeley’s zoning law requires 20 percent of housing units in new apartment buildings to be rented below market rate. 

Panoramic bought the site last month from Aldar Investment, Inc., according to Hudson. 

Panoramic is one of the most prolific builders in downtown Berkeley and has recently built or planned several mixed-use developments in the area. In addition to the Fine Arts building the firm is planning a commercial and residential development at Darling Flower Shop at 2008 University Ave.