Two teams seeking the development opportunity at the North Berkeley BART station presented their credentials for public evaluation Thursday.
This panel followed a historic $53 million commitment toward affordable housing in the North Berkeley and Ashby stations from the city of Berkeley, according to the BART website. The goal is to create new housing and local amenities for a variety of income levels to complement the surrounding neighborhood, the website added.
In recognition of the investment, BART offered the public a rare chance to interact with the development teams during evaluation. Abby Thorne-Lyman, BART director of real estate and property development, noted that the development teams had been asked to focus on their experience rather than plans for the area.
“We are selecting a developer, we’re not selecting a project; the project will be shaped by the developer with the community,” Thorne-Lyman said. “We want to select somebody who can really prove their capability to work with the city of Berkeley and the Berkeley community members in particular.”
The first team to present, led by San-Francisco-based nonprofit BRIDGE Housing, was introduced by its executive vice president, Brad Wiblin. Wiblin noted the team’s extensive experience working with BART, including assisting in the conversion of a public parking garage into affordable housing and child care around San Leandro station, similar to the intended North Berkeley project.
Joe Kirchofer, project lead from the team’s market-rate housing developer AvalonBay Communities, noted that AvalonBay was a long-term owner of its buildings and thus had in-house management and maintenance teams for extended care. Kirchofer added that the self-funded nature of AvalonBay meant no reliance on loans or investors and a guarantee of completion.
The team’s design lead for buildings and architecture, Daniel Simons, said they are focused on designing for the community and for the future.
“I’m interested in how to take this hot, impermeable, car-centric place and make it something that actually fits better in the neighborhood,” said Sarah Kuehl, founder of Einwiller Kuehl Landscape. “I really believe in making that a rich place for the people who live in the buildings, but also the people outside.”
Alicia Klein, an affordable housing project manager for the second team, which is led by Republic Metropolitan, or ReMet, introduced her group as a local team supported by national expertise. Klein said Satellite Affordable Housing Associates and Resources for Community Development, or RCD — the two nonprofit developers on the team — had 36 completed Berkeley properties between them, noting that all RCD properties are income and rent-restricted.
Kelly Macy, vice president of development at ReMet, added that the company has been in business for 40 years and completed more than 35 private-public partnerships. She noted the company’s projects with YMCA to redevelop properties into “dynamic health and wellness villages,” as well as its work building market-rate and affordable housing at the Millbrae BART station.
Dan Parolek, who is involved in master planning for the second team, noted the importance of design via multiple architects for variety.
“We bring a context-sensitive planning and architecture approach to all the projects we work on,” Parolek said. “We look forward to collaborating with the consultant selected by the city and BART to create the standards for this site.”