Berkeley: 1900 Fourth Street - Major Gap in Fourth Street Retail Corridor to Be Finally Filled?

Rendering: BHV CenterStreet Properties/TCA Architects
Here I was harping on about how the giant parking lot on Fourth Street between Hearst Avenue and University Avenue was keeping West Berkeley's popular shopping area separated from newer developments to the south while all this time a project was actually in the works. Oblivious to this fact, my heart skipped a beat when I passed by the lot today and I noticed one of those large yellow "Proposed Project" signs.  

It turns out that something has been planned for this site since at least the early 2000s but, due to archeological concerns, the development had been stalled until just recently. The site used to be home to a large shell mound prior to European colonization of the area and is considered sacred ground by members of the Ohlone tribe. Some people advocated for a museum to be built on the site while others scoffed at the idea of preserving a paved parking lot. Berkeleyside has some great coverage on this issue and it's definitely worth a read. Ultimately, a developer commissioned study (with Ohlone oversight) found no historically significant remnants underneath the parking lot. With those findings in hand, developer BHV CenterStreet Properties is now applying for entitlements to build a mixed-use development on the site.

The project as currently proposed is slated to include 135 apartments as well as about 33,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. In exchange for a density bonus, 11 of the apartments will be set aside as affordable housing. The project will also include 372 parking spaces, 237 of which will be available to the public. Designed by TCA Architects, renderings of the development show a variety of colors and shapes that help break up the large site. The buildings' varied heights are sensitive to the surroundings and serve as a transition point from the low-rise portion of Fourth Street north of Hearst Avenue to the increasingly dense, mid-rise part of the neighborhood just south of University Avenue. Additionally, a pedestrian paseo would be built in the NE corner of the development. Immediately across the street from this project is the 1901 Fourth Street development which will provide around 20,000 square feet of retail so both sides of this block should be almost unrecognizable in just a few years. 

Though these plans may change as the project moves forward, I am encouraged by what is proposed so far. The project's design is very attractive and includes a generous amount of pedestrian-oriented retail as well as a good amount of housing. Given the project's history of running into opposition, I would be surprised, however, if this time around it just sailed through the approval process. Hopefully, those of us who favor this development can support it at various hearings and meetings. It looks like the developer has done a good job so far of keeping the neighborhood involved by organizing several community meetings. To stay informed and for additional renderings, check out the project's website at 1900FourthSt.com.
View from 4th Street near Hearst Ave. Rendering: BHV CenterStreet Properties/TCA Architects
Before and after shot from Hearst Ave near the railroad tracks. Rendering: BHV CenterStreet Properties/TCA Architects
Rendering: BHV CenterStreet Properties/TCA Architects
Ground floor plan for the proposed development. Image: BHV CenterStreet Properties/TCA Architects
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