Monday, June 30, 2014

An endurance milestone

Buildings are popping up all over downtown Berkeley. The scorekeepers over at Berkeleyside headlined it in January: 'Explosive' downtown Berkeley housing boom underway.
More than 1,400 housing units are currently in development in downtown Berkeley, with demolition on one of the first in the pipeline scheduled to begin this week.
Fourteen hundred new housing units in downtown Berkeley alone? No wonder the SF Chronicle wrote this weekend about Oakland's promise as solution to Bay Area's housing crunch. (Berkeley begins at Oakland's northern border; Oakland is the East Bay's biggest city.)

All well and good. I'm three-thumbs up on urban infill, on building places for people to live close to public transit, shops, schools, and whatnot. Not driving? That's a good thing. Sprawl? Not so much.

But that's not what I'm here to report.

See, it's not just that I failed to read the Berkeleyside article in January. It's not even that I passed the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Dwight Way pretty much every day for all the months since, and several years beforehand -- the corner is on my bike, bus, and/or pedestrian route to work and/or the gym -- and I never registered that 2107 Dwight Way was slated for demolition. Clearly I'm not paying attention.

If I had been paying attention I might not have been so shocked to see a grapple excavator -- a yellow hunk of diesel-powered machinery with a long hydraulic arm, and a dragon's head on the business end of the arm to bite big chunks out of buildings -- chomping down 2107 Dwight when I went back to work last week, after a week out of town. The photo at the top of this post is what the lot (and the two adjacent to it) looked like by Sunday. That's the grapple excavator behind the piles of debris.

So, okay, whatever. The wheel turns, right? Buildings are razed, new buildings are built. That's what's happening at the corner of Dwight and Shattuck. If you like you can check out what the new building's going to look like on the city's website (PDF, it's a big one).

Change isn't what shocked me.

What shocked me is that I've been skulking around Berkeley long enough to remember when the torn-down building went up. When it was built. Under construction. Brand spanking new.

Yup. It's a milestone, ready or not.

I'm older than architecture now.

Mid-'80s, maybe? No, that's not my age; it's when the building torn down at 2107 Dwight just this past week was constructed.

I remember hating it instantly, especially that ridiculous yellow flourish-and-flagpole protrusion (you can see it in the photo). I mean, it was so self-consciously useless and ... stupid. Although some will say, the new building's drawings look even worse. So it goes.

Anyway, here I am, compelled to mark the milestone, humiliating as it may be.

Oh, and speaking of humiliation, here's another downtown change that happened over the past couple of weeks, just the next block north:

Close readers of these posts may remember Sex shop yields to electric scooters, from about 15 months ago. Short story, a longtime massage parlor went out of business, an enterprise that was staffed by women whose massage techniques were said to stretch well past the accepted borders of clinically therapeutic. Shortly thereafter, it looked like a scooter rental place was going into the space.

Well, it turned out that the scooter shop never opened for business. The scooters just sat there in the window collecting dust. Then one day they were gone, and the place was empty.

Now? The windows are covered with butcher paper to a height of six or so feet above sidewalk level, and the place has a new sign.

"Love," it's (going to be) called. A hair and nail salon.


What's that about? A nod to the storefront's checkered past? Or a new cover for old business?

I guess we'll find out soon enough ... if the place starts accepting flower deliveries (see my post of last March) there'll probably be police raids in the shop's future.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Eshelman Hall demolition: all but history
Sex shop yields to electric scooters
The desire to destroy is also a creative desire