Landmark Grocery Reborn as Luxurious Townhouses By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday June 17, 2005

Four decades after it was abandoned and nearly a century after it was built, a landmarked former grocery store is back in business—this time as housing. 

In his first foray into the realm of development, Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg has reincarnated the dilapidated landmark and transformed it into a gem. 

In a rare show of unanimity between two often-divergent arms of city government, Trachtenberg’s plans won the unanimous assents of both the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). 

The result is the reincarnated Rose Grocery at 2211 Rose St., this time as a pair of upscale condominiums which stand resplendent in the place of the ruins of a 1908 store built by a German immigrant. 

Only a few aged boards remain of the original structure—the Rose Grocery sign, the corbels above it and the carved wooden pilasters on either side of the two-copper-sheathed garage doors that now stand where George Hunrick’s windows once displayed his fresh produce. 

Hunrick came from Germany to study banking under A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America. He moved to Berkeley in 1904, and opened his store two years later. 

At the time, the building was located in what was known as the Berryman Station shopping district, named after the streetcar and railroad hub a block to the north. 

Hunrick ran the store until 1923, when he transferred operation to a store at the corner of College and Ashby avenues. 

The Rose Street store continued to operate under various guises until 1966, when it was shuttered forever. 

By the time the LPC bestowed the “structure of merit” designation in 1988, the store’s structural decay was already advanced, and when Trachtenberg bought it a year ago, collapse was imminent. 

Trachtenberg is a well known architect whose commissions have included the Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck Avenue, Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue and the latest addition to Solano Avenue, the unique two-story corner building at 1820 Solano Ave. 

By the time he bought Rose Grocery, “it was already considered a ‘demolition by neglect’ because it was more than 50 percent collapsed,” the architect said. 

“It was a complex process to work with Landmarks and the Zoning Board to come up with a solution,” he said. 

The architect lauded LPC member Carrie Olson for her help in formulating a project that met the requirements of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. 

He gave special praise to former LPC chair and project neighbor Robert Kehlman, who was a strong advocate for the project and helped organize neighbor support. 

“We received 37 letters of support from neighbors and none in opposition,” he said. 

Also offering major support for the project were Berkeley Planning Manager Mark Rhoades and then-ZAB member and now City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, “who helped expedite what could have been a very lengthy process.” 

Trachtenberg’s townhouses are light and airy, with 10-foot ceilings and floors of sustainable Brazilian cherry wood. Complimenting the elegant interiors are the gardens and flagstone and gravel exterior spaces designed by the architect’s brother, Robert Trachtenberg of Garden Architecture. 

“We think of ourselves as a team,” said David Trachtenberg. 

The two-story 1,500-square-foot townhomes will sell for big bucks, and the additional 500-square-foot above-garage studio that goes with the first unit puts the cost of that dwelling close to the $1 million mark. 

Two realtors on hand for a reporter’s tour of the dwellings told the architect his homes had the finest detailing they’d ever seen. The proximity to Shattuck Avenue’s Gourmet Ghetto will also help with sales. 

“All the neighbors are thrilled with what we’ve done,” Trachtenberg said. 

“The neighbors, who have lived near a neglected property for decades, are ecstatic to have something that fits into the neighborhood and retains a piece of Berkeley history,” said Kehlman. “This is a sensitive reconstruction that turns the building into an asset for the neighborhood.” 

As required under the landmark code, the street facade retains the look that made the grocery store a memorable part of Berkeley history. 

The Mission Revival facade with its false front parapet bears the same profile as the older building, though the front structure is reduced in depth to accommodate the two dwellings behind it on the 5,000-square-foot lot. 

The copper garage doors stand in place of the large plate glass windows, and where the entry once stood is a small memorial to the building’s history, complete with a plaque.  


Editor’s note: Information on the history of the Hunrick Grocery Store is drawn from the research of Susan Cerny, posted on the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association website (www.berkeleyheritage.com).›