Read all about the downtown district in the Downtown Berkeley e-Library
Downtown Berkeley Housing
Downtown is the site for Berkeley’s fastest growing housing market. Hundreds of new units are now available in this prime location next to the Downtown Berkeley BART station and the UC Berkeley campus. At your doorstep or just around the corner you will find the best of Berkeley’s dining, cultural, entertainment and shopping options. Imagine living next door to the finest facilities in town like the YMCA, Central Public Library, Civic Center, and the Farmers’ Market. Downtown living is back in style and offers all the convenience and attractions of urban life.
Downtown Berkeley Commercial Space
This is an informal list of brokers, property managers, and developers who can help you buy or lease Downtown Berkeley commercial properties. We encourage you to look at the web sites to learn about available properties. If you don’t find what you are looking for, please call our office for additional leads. Occasionally we hear about sublets and other opportunities.
List of Commercial Property Managers
Downtown Berkeley Public Transportation
BART’s Berkeley Station and Transit Plaza is Downtown’s transit hub. Over ten thousand people per day exit the BART station making it the second busiest in the system. Downtown is also well served by AC Transit, private taxis, UC Shuttle buses, and the Lawrence Berkeley Labs Shuttle. City leaders are prioritizing the improvement of public transit (see Transit and Parking).
Downtown Berkeley History
The commercial life of Downtown Berkeley began in 1876 when Francis Kittredge Shattuck, one of the founding landowners of Berkeley, persuaded Southern Pacific to run a spur line through his property, terminating at what is now Berkeley Square and Shattuck Square. Rail access provided impetus for new commercial growth. When Berkeley was incorporated in 1878, Shattuck Avenue was already established as its main street at Berkeley Station. While the pioneer buildings from this period no longer exist, the layout of the Downtown street grid dates from this period. The Downtown buildings that we know today were the result of construction from the period beginning in 1903 when the Key System electric trains were established on Shattuck Avenue. You will notice that few buildings have been restored intact – in many cases the street-level facades have been altered. It is often useful to lift your gaze to the upper stories to fully capture the flavor and spirit of Berkeley’s original “Main Street” architecture. For more details on architectural history, see the Downtown’s Architectural Walking Tour.
Downtown Berkeley Demographics
Downtown Berkeley is approximately thirty square blocks characterized by high foot traffic, proximity to UC Berkeley campus, access to public transportation, and architecture with substantial historic character. The area is a restaurant, theater, and entertainment mecca. More than 100 restaurants serve cuisine from over 15 countries. The Berkeley Repertory Theatre packs the house nightly with a sophisticated and regional clientele ? over 160,000 annually.
Berkeley has the densest urban population in the East Bay and Downtown lies right in the center. Around 49,000 residents (of Berkeley’s 105,000) live within a one mile radius of Downtown. The daytime population also includes roughly 23,000 office workers, 30,000 UC Berkeley Students, 11,000 UC Berkeley faculty, and 3,000 Berkeley High Students. The central district’s residential population is growing. Three housing projects currently under construction will house hundreds of new residents who seek the convenience of transit oriented development. The developments are all located within one block of the Berkeley BART station. Downtown Berkeley is well positioned to increasingly draw on all of these populations as a customer base.
Downtown Berkeley Public and Private Investment
In recent years, over $150 million in public and private investment has been changing the face of Downtown. Renovations have brought some of our finest historic buildings back to life. The Oxcent Group converted the once dilapidated Center Street into the elegant Restaurant Row – creating a classy gateway between BART and the UC campus. Aldar Investment beautifully restored the Francis K. Shattuck building and attracted top tenants such as the Downtown Restaurant (a fine brasserie serving seafood and jazz) in the pivotal ground floor corner location. The City of Berkeley has invested over $5.5 million into the Addison Street Arts District which has leveraged over $25 million in private investment – raised mainly through capital campaigns. Dedicated arts groups have raised millions of dollars to build out their new venues in the Arts District. And the art will spill out onto the streets when the Addison Street sidewalks become home for poetry panels and public art. Outside of the Arts District, construction projects include residential and office mixed use developments and the renovation of our most beloved institution – the Berkeley Public Library, For a list of all current construction projects, please see our Downtown Developments Spreadsheet .
Downtown Berkeley Retail Economy
Berkeley’s residents constitute a sophisticated and educated population of shoppers. Surveys of regional retail sales patterns indicate that households within a three mile radius of Downtown spend an average of approximately $17,000 annually on retail purchases. The strong niche markets in the Downtown commercial district include arts and entertainment, dining, and specialty retail. Five movie theatres with 21 movie screens and live theatre bring thousands of people to the district (see Arts and Entertainment ). A recent increase in fine dining options has improved Downtown as a destination for “dinner and a show” (see Dining ). The strongest retail specialties include electronics, furniture, and home & office supplies, including companies like the M.A.C. Computer Store, Scandinavian Designs, Alko Office Supply, and Ace Hardware. For more detailed Downtown retail market analysis, request a copy of the City of Berkeley’s Downtown Berkeley Retail Analysis from the Literature Request Form . For the DBA’s work plan to improve the retail sector, see the Retail Development Strategy .
Downtown Berkeley Technology, Research and Consulting
Above the bustling ground floor, the upper offices house renowned technology, research, and consulting firms. Our central commercial district is well known as a location for technology start-ups; our proximity to UC Berkeley is a strong attraction for science and research operations. Twenty five years ago, a research project at UCB led to the creation of Computers and Structures, Inc. — now recognized world wide as a leader in software development for structural and earthquake engineering. Alan Kropp Associates provides geotechnical consultations for new and damaged facilities in the Bay Area and throughout the Western United States. BARRA provides the world’s leading financial institutions with risk management technology and decision support tools that power informed investment decisions. These companies are a very valuable sector of our downtown business district. Mains Associates has its roots as NASA contractors, and currently consults to help science and technology organizations communicate and share information more effectively. Technology, research, and consulting firms are a very important segment of our business community.
Downtown Berkeley Useful Phone Numbers
City of Berkeley Public Info: 981-7000
Mayor Tom Bates: 981-7100
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin: 981-7140
Berkeley Police & Fire Department: 981-5900
Anonymous crime and drug reporting: “THE-COPS”
Berkeley Hosts: 549-2230 ext. 12
Meter Repair: (877) METER-411
Permit Service Center: 981-7500