Downtown Berkeley has snagged a new business—albeit one that was already operating in the city.
Half-Price Books, which now sells new and used books, videotapes, DVDs and software at 1849 Solano Ave., is relocating to the landmark Samuel H. Kress & Co. Building at 2036 Shattuck Ave.
Store manager Tom Carter, who was supervising the packing of some of his 100,000-plus inventory Thursday, said he expects to open in the new location by Sept. 15, though the Solano store will remain open through the annual Solano Stroll on Sept. 11.
The store, one of more than 80 in a family-owned chain, was originally located on Telegraph Avenue before also opening on Solano Avenue.
Chain Vice President Matt Dalton told city Landmarks Preservation Commissioners Monday he was thrilled with the move into the old Kress store.
“It’s a wonderful building, a dream,” he said.
Built in 1933 and designed by architect Edward F. Sibbert, the building occupies a key position in the downtown at the end of the most heavily walked stretch of pavement in the city and across from the downtown BART station.
Building owner John Gordon said the bookstore will add a major attraction to the city center.
“When you do retail, you try to get a good mix of tenants,” Gordon said, “and they’re a good fit.”
The bookseller will occupy all of the 8,000-square-foot first-floor retail space, Gordon said, and will be stay open until late in the evening.
“It’s a good addition to the Arts District, and it fits in well with the new comics store and the Other Change of Hobbit, as well as the gelato store,” he said.
Dalton appeared at the Landmarks Preservation Commission Monday to seek approval of the an illuminated vertical “blade” sign for the corner of the building facing the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Addison Street.
Because the structure is a Berkeley landmark, the commission has approval over exterior signage.
Commissioners said they were pleased to see the building get a new tenant, and appointed a subcommittee to work with Dalton to come up with a sign that would fit the character of the building.
“The store needs all the announcement it can get,” said Commissioner Leslie Emmington.
Half-Price currently has two other stores in California, one in Fremont and the other in Concord, Carter said.
“I like the idea of moving downtown both because of the increased traffic and because we like to be in the center of things,” Carter said. “It’s a nice historic building, and it’s the first time the company has been able to move into a building like this.”
Unlike many other stores, Half-Price buys all its used books from readers in the community, Carter said. “We buy from our neighborhood customers, not from the outside.”
Technically, he said, that makes Half-Price a book recycling business.
The new facility will include all new shelving, and Carter said the fixtures in the Solano Avenue store will be offered free to nonprofit organizations. If any are left after that they’ll be offered to the public at $5 apiece or less.
The new location offers about the same amount of retail space as the Solano Avenue store, but it’s all on one floor.
“It will be great getting back into the center of things,” Carter said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
The announcement of the Half-Price move makes the second major new addition to downtown Berkeley announced in recent days.
Berkeley developer Roy Nee recently told the Daily Planet that he has partnered with Starwood Hotels to transform the ailing Shattuck Hotel, another landmark, into the Berkeley Westin.