In Monday morning’s bright sunlight, a front-end loader busily growled through the dwindling piles of rubble that are the last remnants of three Center Street buildings.
And one morning soon—probably in late August—earthmovers will begin their excavations, making way for the posh, 186,000-square-foot, nine-story condo complex.
Once that happens, the one-block stretch of Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street—already reduced to one lane by the work at the new Berkeley City College building—will become even more congested as crews across the street start digging for parking.
The college’s “use of the street for construction activities will end approximately the end of July, and building occupancy will occur on August 23, 2006, which is the start of the school year,” said Tamlyn Bright of the city Office of Transportation.
Excavation won’t commence until after college starts.
Still more construction is being planned just across Shattuck where UC Berkeley and Carpenter and Company are planning a 210-room upscale hotel, condo and convention center complex, though the developer says construction could be as much as two years away.
Once dubbed the Seagate Building after its first set of developers and renamed by their successors, the 2041-67 Center St. Arpeggio will become Berkeley’s tallest new building since the Gaia Building.
But, unlike the always controversial Gaia, it will house a full-time 9,000-square-foot performance and rehearsal venue under the auspices of the non-profit Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
“My prediction is that it will be a couple of months before we start digging the hole,” said Darrell de Tienne, a San Francisco developer who has been involved with the project through two changes of ownership.
The construction date will be determined by the city approval process, de Tienne said.
“The city will probably change everything six ways from Sunday,” he quipped. “But once we begin, construction should be complete within 24 months.”
The new building will incorporate green technology, the developer said, and will qualify for certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, de Tienne said, but just at what level he couldn’t say.
The Arpeggio will feature eight floors totaling 149 up-scale condominiums built atop a ground floor that will include rehearsal space for the Berkeley Repertory Theater, a public art gallery and at least one commercial use.
The building will also feature 160 parking spaces in a two-level underground lot.
The Berkeley Rep was given first call on the arts space—which provides an additional “bonus” floor of housing as compensation—because the non-profit’s rehearsal facilities were located in two of the just-demolished buildings.
Berkeley Rep has signed a lease that allows other groups to hold performances in the space 52 days a year.
A second bonus comes from the “inclusionary” condos incorporated in the plans, 11 units that will be sold to those earning 81 percent or less of the area’s median income and another 12 for those earning 50 percent or less.
None of the units will be on the top two floors, which will command the highest prices—a point that irks City Councilmember Dona Spring.
“Inclusionary units are supposed to be the same as any others,” she said, “but these units are the inside units that don’t have the views. That’s wrong.”
The combination of bonuses allowed the developer to add four additional floors above the downtown five-floor limit.
Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton said that a proposal that will be presented to the Planning Commission Wednesday night would allow the developers to sell the 11 units at market rate if they paid a proposed in-lieu fee to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
The main legal opposition came in a November 2004 appeal by Citizens for Downtown Berkeley, spearheaded by current mayoral candidate and former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein.
Two months later, the City Council rejected the appeal on an 8-0-1 vote, with Councilmember Kriss Worthington abstaining.
The first developers were Seagate, a privately held five-member partnership with extensive real estate holdings in the Bay Area and apartments in Colorado. That company owns the 12-story Wells Fargo Bank building, 2140 Shattuck Ave. and structures at 2850 Telegraph Ave., 1950 and 2039-2040 Addison St., and 1918 and 1936 University Ave.
Seagate sold the site, plans and permits in May 2005 to SNK Captec Arpeggio, LLC, a joint venture corporation between an Arizona builder and a Michigan financial company.
Captec Financial Group, a firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., specializes in development and equipment financing and holds a portfolio of leased properties. The 24-year-old company owns or manages approximately $1 billion in assets, according to the corporate web site.
SNK Realty Group, an arm of SNK Development, joined with Captec in August 2004 to create to form SNK Opportunity Partners LLC.
The same partnership has developed a 102-unit residential and ground floor commercial project, with an adjoining 263-car parking structure, at 40th Street and San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville.