Last Downtown Berkeley movie theater eyed for redevelopment

Project would close Regal Cinemas and replace with 239 apartments

Panoramic Interests founder Patrick Kennedy and a rendering of the project at 2274 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley (Panoramic Interests, City of Berkeley, Getty)
Panoramic Interests founder Patrick Kennedy and a rendering of the project at 2274 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley (Panoramic Interests, City of Berkeley, Getty)

A local developer wants to gut the back half of Downtown Berkeley’s last operating movie theater to make way for a 17-story apartment building near campus.

Panoramic Interests, based in San Francisco, has filed plans to raze the rear of the Regal UA Theatre at 2274 Shattuck Avenue and replace it with a 239-unit, mixed-use tower, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

If approved, the project would shutter the Art Deco-style movehouse, which opened in 1932 as the United Artists Theater. The cinema, a block from the UC Berkeley campus, contains the last operating screens in Downtown.

The project, designed by Trachtenberg Architects of Berkeley, calls for a beige-and-brown apartment tower reminiscent of early-century commercial highrises. Plans call for a partial removal of the Regal building, leaving the historic facade intact near the curb.

In exchange for a density bonus of more height and apartments than allowed by zoning, it would set aside 24 units as affordable for households earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of area median income.

Regal Cinemas, which operates the Regal UA, could not immediately be reached for comment to the Business Times.

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This month, a Rhode Island developer filed plans to redevelop the century-old California Theatre, which closed nearby in 2019, into a 15-story building with 214 apartments and a live theater stage. The facade and marquee would be preserved.

Both planned theater conversions join the ranks of a half-dozen highrises proposed for Downtown Berkeley, many of them student oriented to respond to a student housing crunch.

Changes to state density bonus law, which allows developers to trade on-site affordable units for extra height and density, have allowed developers like Panoramic to build taller in the East Bay city, according to the Business Times.

Panoramic Interests has three other developments in its Berkeley pipeline, including a seven-story, 68-unit project with 1,200 square feet of commercial space at 1752 Shattuck Avenue; a a four-story, 11-unit project at 2555 College Avenue; and a five-story, 13-unit project at 2800 Telegraph Avenue.

— Dana Bartholomew

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