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Back to Past: Historical Feature Will Once Again Grace Downtown Building

Building Returning to Architectural Roots

Berkeley Daily Planet

Fans of scaffolding and ongoing downtown construction are in for a big disappointment. The near-total renovation of the 98-year-old Francis K. Shattuck Building at Shattuck Avenue and Addison Street regressed earlier this week – but that’s a good thing. Construction crews put the finishing touches on the building’s “turret” – a three-story, cylindrical tower on the corner of the structure originally removed over 60 years ago.

Between Thursday and Monday the turret was outfitted with windows, trim and a brand-new paint job, all of which are easily observable due to the removal of the scaffolding surrounding it since renovations kicked off in April 1998.

“The building is closer to what it originally was since…1940.”

“The building is closer to what it originally was since probably 1940.” says Construction Superintendent Fred Bush. “The turret was built on the building in 1901, but somewhere between 1930 and 1940 it was taken off.”

The turret wasn’t the only piece of ornate Berkeley architecture lost to the wrecking ball in the 1930s. Around that time an aesthetic trend known as the Modern Movement became popular. The end result of the movement was the transformation of Berkeley’s elaborately decorated downtown into a blander, more Spartan atmosphere.

“There was both an aesthetic and probably an economic gain to the building owner,” explains Jim Novosel of Bay Architects, the firm overseeing the rebuilding of the Francis K. Shattuck Building. “Owners didn’t have to maintain these interesting embellishments, you just had a stripped-down, plaster-clad box. In the 1930’s they bastardized (the Francis K. Shattuck Building). They literally defiled its architectural embellishment.”

With its brightly painted and elegantly decorated turret now out in the open for all to see, the Francis K. Shattuck building is slowly but surely regaining its earlier form, when it was the first tall masonry building on Shattuck Avenue – Main Street back then. It has not been an easy process, however. The building was essentially hollowed out, reduced to exterior walls and floor joists (the horizontal boards to which the floor–boards are fastened). From there, workers installed a completely new interior on top of a seismically upgraded steel foundation.

Finally, the roof was raised – literally – as a fourth floor was added. The ground floor will be reserved for retail outlets, with the second, third and fourth floors utilized for office space.

It is because of the new fourth floor that the Francis K. Shattuck Building will once again resemble its 1901 form. City regulations of downtown construction require that for every 500 square feet of commercial space one builds, a parking stall is required. If construction of additional parking is not possible, the city charges $15,000 per stall.

The Francis K. Shattuck Building’s additional 13,000 square feet would have left owner Avi Nevo with a bill approaching $400,000. Novosel, however, had a cunning plan.

“We said, ‘Instead of doing that (charging a fee), why don’t you approve this project and let us restore the historic old façade?” And the city said ‘Bravo!”‘

The bulk of the Francis K. Shattuck Building’s restoration is complete, but it will still be a while before you don’t have to walk through a wood, plastic and metal tunnel on the way to B ART. Bush estimates that the project still has roughly 90 days to go.

“It’s a tough schedule.” says Bush. “Every time we open a wall there’s a new mystery. We found railroad rails in there used for support. That certainly isn’t used in building today.”

Renovation of the historic Francis K. Shattuck Building at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Addison Street should be completed within about 90 days.