The historic Kenney Cottage will remain at 1725 University Ave. for at least a few more days.
The cottage, which was designated a Structure of Merit by the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year, was originally scheduled to move five blocks down University Avenue on Sunday to make way for an affordable housing complex. But a permit application process that has taken longer than expected has postponed the relocation until the proper paperwork is in place.
“The city will obviously grant [the permit] because they granted temporary space for the cottage,” said BAHA corporate secretary Daniella Thompson. “It’s just another bit of red tape that we have to go through.”
When Affordable Housing Associates, Inc. (AHA) bought the former site of the Kelly Moore Paint store at 1725 University Ave. in 2000, they inherited the Kenney-Meinheit Cottage, a prefabricated panel house believed to be the oldest example of that type of construction in the United States. The cottage moved from Addison Street to the University Avenue site in 1906, where it sat behind a larger commercial building.
Area historical activists rediscovered the cottage when AHA applied for a demolition permit to begin construction on the site, and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) filed an application to earn the cottage landmark status. The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the cottage—but not the site—as a historical landmark, meaning that AHA would be allowed to relocate but not demolish the house.
“We had two options,” said AHA senior project manager Kevin Zwick, who is in charge of the proposed 27-unit affordable housing complex at 1725 University Ave. “We could dismantle, document and put the thing in storage or put it on a new site. We elected to move it to a temporary site until a more permanent site could be found.”
Earlier this year, BAHA signed a contract with the city of Berkeley to become the temporary conservator of the Kenney Cottage and to assume responsibility for finding an interim location. BAHA found a suitable spot about five blocks west of the current site, at 1275 University Ave., and AHA took charge of securing approval for the move as well as providing necessary funding. Zwick said that AHA has paid about $30,000 to study the portability of the cottage, extensively document the construction and history and physically move the house from the old site to the temporary location. BAHA is currently working on finding a permanent spot for the cottage.
Zwick said that AHA had hoped to receive the necessary permits to move the Kenney Cottage by July 20, but that soliciting necessary signatures had taken longer than anticipated. BAHA scheduled the relocation ceremony for Sunday and sent postcards to about 100 members inviting them to view the move and participate in the subsequent party at the new lot. On Tuesday, BAHA alerted members and area residents that the relocation had been postponed until further notice. Zwick said that AHA hoped to have all necessary paperwork on file with the city within a week or so.
“The city of Berkeley has said that they are going to expedite the process as soon as a contractor can turn in the application,” he said. “It’s a long process that will probably end up taking a few more days.”
Zwick said that AHA is interested in moving the cottage as soon as possible so the development company can begin construction on the housing development by September, calling the cottage relocation process “a major factor in the delay of the project.” AHA hopes to have the complex built by next year in order to house senior citizens and disadvantaged families.
“It’s exciting that we can build this much-needed housing complex while preserving a historic landmark,” Zwick said. “This has been going on for about three years, and it’s very close to becoming a reality.”