UC Ready to Hire Museums Architect

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 26, 2006

Creation of a major new UC Berkeley museum complex on Center Street inched a step closer Monday with the close of applications for the position of project architect. 

Meanwhile, museum officials are scheduled to meet today (Tuesday) with a select group of community members, including representatives of the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA). 

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the Jazz Cafe, 2087 Addison St. 

The university’s architectural and public relations moves come as a subcommittee of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) is studying the future of Center Street. The new DAPAC subcommittee will hold its first meeting Oct. 5 starting at 7 p.m. in the second floor of the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

Rob Wrenn, a former Planning Commission chair who now sits on the Transportation Commission, will serve as chair for the first meeting. 

The Center Street Subcommittee, formed at Planning Commission Chair Helen Burke’s urging over the objections of DAPAC Chair Will Travis, is also considering the impact of a second major university-backed development planned for the one block stretch of Center between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue. 

The project, commonly called the UC Hotel, was the subject of a lengthy study by a special city subcommittee appointed to consider the impact of the construction of a high-rise hotel at the northeast corner of the intersection of Center and Shattuck. 

The university has selected Boston-based developer Carpenter and Company, which presented a general project overview to DAPAC in June. 

It was after that meeting that Burke called for the creation of what is now known as the Center Street Subcommittee. DAPAC members voted overwhelmingly in support, with only Travis and former UC Berkeley administrator Dorothy Walker in opposition. 

The university’s plans for the hotel complex had earlier spurred the creation of the Hotel Task Force, created by the City Council in December 2003. Both Burke and Wrenn had served on the panel, with Burke then representing the Sierra Club. 

That panel, drawing from the Planning Commission, the Zoning Adjustments Board, the Design Review Committee, the Civic Arts Commission and a variety of community organizations, completed its study the following April. 

Among the panel’s recommendations was a call for closing Center Street to traffic between Oxford and Shattuck, transforming the streetscape into a pedestrian plaza—possibly including an excavated and daylighted Strawberry Creek. 

That waterway now flows through a buried culvert beneath the street. 

The museums would rise at the eastern end of Center Street on the sites now occupied by the landmarked University Press Building. 

The building, a 1939 New Deal Moderne structure where the original copies of the United Nations Charter were printed in 1945 for the signatures of delegates gathered in San Francisco for the U.N.’s founding, was declared a city landmark in June 2004. 

That structure would be demolished to make way for the complex, which will house the Berkeley Art Museum, the Pacific Film Archive, the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and exhibits from the Berkeley Natural History Museums. 

Plans call for a total of 71,650 square feet of gallery, theater, classroom and other display areas, according to the Request for Proposals issued by the university. 

Burke said she had heard that museum officials are accompanying their presentations on the projects with solicitations of funds. As with most of the university’s new building programs, most if not all of the funding is expected to come from private and corporate donors.