Fate of Wareham’s Bioscience Lab To Be Decided

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 02, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

After months of deliberation, Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet Thursday, July 2, at the City Hall Chambers to decide the fate of Wareham’s proposed biosciences lab at 740 Heinz St., the site of the landmarked Copra Warehouse. 

Wareham’s proposal calls for tearing down one of the last three remaining buildings on the former Durkee Famous Foods property in West Berkeley and building a four-story, 82,000-square-foot research facility, an idea that has met with a significant amount of resistance from preservationists as well as neighbors. 

Others have voiced their support for the lab on the basis that it will bring new jobs to Berkeley and create a green corridor in the city similar to the one in Emeryville. 

The developers are asking for a variance on the building’s height, which will go over the neighborhood’s currently permitted 40 feet to stand at a towering 72 feet. 

In an effort at preservation, Wareham has proposed to keep the north and south red-brick facades of the old building, a move that has drawn scorn from a few landmarks commissioners, who view it as a demolition nonetheless. 

In the past, some members of the zoning board have expressed concern about issuing a variance for the project’s height, which they said has not occurred in the area in recent memory. 

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. with a public hearing on the project, followed by a joint discussion by the landmarks commission and the zoning board on the environmental impact report. 

The zoning board will then vote on whether to certify the final EIR, after which the landmarks commission will vote on whether to approve the demolition.