The city of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board, or ZAB, approved land use plans for the construction of two research and development buildings and two parking structures at Bolivar Drive and Aquatic Park Path on May 27.
The unanimous ZAB approval greenlights the demolition of buildings on the approximately 8.4-acre site and the construction of the buildings – officially called Berkeley Commons – totaling 470,986 square feet. Construction on the buildings, which will be located at 600 Addison St., will begin September 2021 and take about two years to complete, according to Lane Partners and LB2 Partners spokesperson Jason Overman.
“We are tremendously excited to have this project in Berkeley,” said city acting economic development manager Eleanor Hollander in an email. “It is a very exciting design in a great location, and it will offer wonderful new space to incubate Berkeley’s growing innovation sector.”
The project also includes two parking structures with the capacity to accommodate 943 parking spaces, medicinal gardens and a prayer deck for the Indigenous community, a public plaza with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a bridge flyover to the Berkeley Marina.
Overman noted that the project, which will be cosponsored by Lane Partners and LB2 Partners, is targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold status, a system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to transform building design with a focus on sustainability.
The core and shell of the buildings will have net-zero energy consumption and both buildings will be completely electric, Overman added.
“Between those various elements, you’re looking at a project that isn’t just going to be state-of-the-art in terms of providing space to important life science research and development, but that is also going to be cutting-edge in terms of eco-friendliness and sustainability,” Overman said.
The buildings underwent substantial design changes throughout the project approval process, which consisted of several preview sessions before Berkeley’s Design Review Committee and ZAB. After significant alterations were made to the project’s first submission, ZAB approved a smaller version of the project that set the buildings farther back into the surrounding trees to enhance the natural landscape.
According to Overman, the project’s design changes emphasized a pleasant streetscape experience for pedestrians. Berkeley Commons is anticipated to enhance the streetscape of Bolivar Drive and the overall Aquatic Park experience with its unique elements, Overman added.
“If you go down to this site right now, it can be a fairly harrowing pedestrian and bicyclist experience,” Overman said. “The way that they will experience this area is going to be drastically enhanced.”
The project’s design process incorporated the Indigenous community through consultation with members of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, an Ohlone tribe native to the East Bay, according to Overman. Several aspects of the project aimed to foster a welcoming atmosphere for Indigenous community members.
The project’s approved design also includes native plants identified in a list provided by the Confederated Villages of Lisjan and the use of terracotta.
“This is something that will be a gem for the community and bring great pride,” Overman said. “If you look at the renderings, I think you’ll agree that it’s truly a beautiful design all around, both in terms of architecture and the way the site has been planned.”