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Zoning Board Hears Development Request for Fidelity Bank Building

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 24, 2007

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) will hear the request for a use permit to convert Walter Ratcliff’s landmark Fidelity Bank Building into a mixed use development Thursday. 

Jim Novosel, of Berkeley-based Bay Architects, has proposed a project which would preserve the existing 4,000-square-foot historic structure at 2323 Shattuck Ave. and convert the two-storey bank space into a restaurant and a dwelling unit. 

The project includes a new five-story building, to be built in place of the existing three-story building adjacent to the Fidelity building, which would have 2,609 square feet of commercial floor area and 15 dwelling units.  

The exterior of the Fidelity building will not be changed according to the project proposal. 

The permit request includes beer and wine services at the restaurant and sidewalk cafe seating. There are eight on-site parking spaces which will be eliminated.  

Inspired by Renaissance Italian architecture, The Fidelity Bank Building, located between the Mechanic’s Bank and the Union Bank on Shattuck Avenue, was built in 1925. It was until a few years ago occupied by Citibank but is now empty. It has been a venue for the Berkeley Arts Festival in recent years. 

City staff have expressed support for the proposed mixed-use infill nature of the project but have recommend denying the permit because of the lost parking spaces. 


Other items 

• Hal Brandel will request a use permit to add beer and wine service to Anchalee’s Thai Cuisine at 1094 Dwight Way. City staff have received no complaints from neighbors and the Berkeley Police Department has indicated they have no problems with the permit. 

• Ali Eslami, owner of The Missouri Lounge in Berkeley, will request a permit to convert two commercial spaces previously used for a restaurant and oxygen bar at 2525 Telegraph Ave. into a 5,803-square-foot space that would be used for a restaurant and an art gallery, to be open 6:30 a.m.-2 a.m. 

The applicant will also request a use permit for distilled spirits in addition to the existing beer and wine services. Berkeley police have objected to the change in the Alcoholic Beverage Control commission license and have requested that the proposed business not operate beyond midnight. 

• Eslami has also requested a use permit to reconfigure an existing three-story, four-unit residential building at 1423 Kains Ave.  

The proposed reconfiguration would have a double-decker garage with two car lifts. Neighbors at 1460 and 1421 Kains Ave. have expressed concerns about noise. According to staff, the noise decibel level is within the ambient level of the area.