New plans for some of Berkeley’s more notable landmarks were presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Thursday, with two receiving qualified but unofficial endorsements.
Act I & Act II
While architects are laboring to design extravaganzas for the north side of Berkeley’s most heavily traveled block, Patrick Kennedy’s designers are planning a smaller project on the south.
That northern side of Center Street between the UC Campus and Shattuck Avenue receives the most pedestrian traffic of any roadway in Berkeley and is already the target of major UC expansion plans.
Both a new high-rise hotel and a lavish museum complex are now in the design stage, and the street itself may undergo radical alterations depending on the work of the citizens helping to draft a new downtown plan.
The building before the LPC is the old Ennor’s Restaurant Building at 2128-2130 Center St., which, until its March 26 closing, housed the Act I & Act II Theater.
LPC members got a sneak preview of one concept for Kennedy’s restoration of the structure, minus the two additional stories his representative said are being considered.
The presentation included a photograph of the theater as it now stands, alongside a digitally created image showing the facade opened and the first floor transformed into a restaurant.
Kennedy has agreed to buy the venerable turn-of-the-last century structure, and escrow is expected to close within the next two months, said Cara Houfer, who works for Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests.
The landmarking application was drafted by preservationist and retired planner John English, who said that “One reason I enjoyed writing it” was because “in recent decades I attended dozens of screenings” in the theater.
The structure is already listed on the State Historic Resources Inventory, along with the two structures immediately to the west.
“We do not have any interest in removing the historical aspects of the building,” said Houfer. “We want to restore some of the more interesting aspects and make it more lively.”
Kennedy, Berkeley’s biggest developer over the last decade, had asked commissioners to postpone action on English’s application until their Nov. 2 meeting, and the LPC agreed.
Freight & Salvage
The commission also got a look at architect Donn Logan’s plans for the new home of Berkeley’s ever-popular Freight & Salvage Coffee House, which will be relocating 10 blocks north from its current home at 1111 Addison St. to two buildings at 2020-2026 Addison.
Though neither of the two buildings is a city landmark, 2020 Addison—the old Stadium Garage, built in 1928—is listed on the SHRI, a fact that brought it before the LPC for review.
“This is a really thrilling project,” said LPC member and architect Gary Parsons.
“It’s a perfect addition to the district,” said colleague Steven Winkel.
“I think it’s a really cool project,” said Burton Edwards, a preservation architect and LPC member.
“It will be really great to have you guys uptown,” said Lesley Emmington, perhaps the LPC’s staunchest preservationist.
The 38-year-old non-profit is a mainstay of the Berkeley entertainment world, and its new location across from the Berkeley Repertory Theater brings the popular music venue into the heart of the downtown arts and entertainment district.
Logan’s design calls for joining the interiors of the two structures and raising the rear of the new conjoined building.
More praise, some of it modestly qualified, came for Tad Laird, owner and operator of the landmarked Bolfing’s Elmwood Hardware at 2947-93 College Ave. in the heart of Berkeley’s Elmwood district.
Built in 1923 and in continuous service as a neighborhood hardware store the last eight decades, the store would be restored to its former glory, and topped by new floors that would add storage and three residential units above the store.
Laird and his architects, Charles Kahn and Todd Poliskin of Kahn Design Associates of Berkeley, have been working closely with an LPC subcommittee to refine their design prior to submitting the project to the city for permits.
“The main goal is to design this with a public space focus,” said Laird. “It’s an important building in the heart of the neighborhood and we are posting all the designs and drawings on the Kitchen Democracy web site because it has been our intention from the start to get as much feedback and comment from the public as possible.”
That information is available online at www.kitchendemocracy.org/berkeley/elmwood_hardware/experts.
LPC Chair Robert Johnson reported on the commission’s role in creating the new downtown plan mandated by settlement of the city’s lawsuit challenged UC Berkeley’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan.
The Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) and the LPC have formed a joint subcommittee to work on landmarks issues to be addressed in the plan, and that body met once in September and will meet again on Oct. 25.
The city has hired Architectural Resources Group (ARG) of San Francisco to work with DAPAC on identifying historic structures and resources in the downtown, and John English told the commission he had reviewed the matrix ARG is preparing to map downtown resources “and I found several dozen mistakes.”
Johnson said he would raise the issue during the subcommittee’s next meeting.