Zoning Board Considers Use Permit for Tower Records Re-Development Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 25, 2007

Berkeley Developers Ruegg & Ellsworth will ask the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) Thursday for a use permit to redevelop the former Tower Records building at 2517 Durant Ave. 

The developers want a blanket use permit to develop the two-story building, similar to the one granted developer John Gordon for the Wright’s Garage building located at 2629-2635 Ashby Ave. 

Gordon requested a use permit to convert the existing three-tenant commercial building (the Wright’s Garage building) into a four-to-seven-tenant commercial building and to change the uses to one restaurant, one exercise/dance studio and up to five retail spaces. 

ZAB approved the Gordon project in March without knowing the specific kinds of businesses that would be housed in it. Neighbors were concerned about noise, parking and traffic impacts. 

The Tower Records building has been sitting empty for nearly three years. 

The proposed plans include a karaoke bar on the ground floor and a carry-out food service and fitness club for the second floor. Applicants have also asked for extended hours for the combined services. 

With the exception of the karaoke bar, the plan does not identify the size and nature of the other businesses or their possible impacts on the neighborhood. 


Fidelity building remodeling 

The mixed-use development of the historic Fidelity Bank building at 2323 Shattuck Ave. will be back before ZAB Thursday. 

ZAB approved a project earlier this month which would preserve the existing 4,000-square-foot structure and convert the two-story bank space into a restaurant with sidewalk seating and an attached apartment building. It would eliminate the eight existing onsite parking spots. 

Staff has determined that no variance is necessary for the removal of the parking since the project’s applicants propose relocating it to 2020 Bancroft Way, within 700 feet of the proposed project. A total of nine parking spots would be created, along with providing eco passes and valet parking to make up for the lack of additional parking.  


The Muse Art House  

Zoning staff will be back with more information about the proposed Muse Art House and Mint Cafe on 2525 Telegraph Ave. 

ZAB voted 6-2 to approve the restaurant and an art gallery in the former location of the Blue Nile Restaurant, but did not grant the requested permits for distilled spirits and expansion of hours at the site. 

Ali Eslami, the owner of the proposed cafe, told the Planet he might not open since ZAB turned down his request to stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends and midnight on weekdays in response to neighborhood concerns about noise and rowdiness. The board ruled the cafe could remain open until midnight on weekends and 10 p.m. on weekdays.