UPDATE (8/17/2011): The City of Berkeley approved the Lions Hall project on Aug. 11.
As the State of California’s budget gap grows, the UC school system is feeling the crunch. The cost of tuition and housing is rising, with students having to foot the bill. A timely new Greenbelt Alliance-endorsed project within blocks of UC Berkeley seeks to provide an affordable housing option for students who want to live off campus.
Lions Hall, proposed by Hudson/McDonald, LLC, is a dorm-style living arrangement located on the corner of Durant and Ellsworth Streets in Berkeley. The location is only a short walk to BART and many bus lines, and an even shorter walk to campus.
Currently facing proposed rezoning under the Southside Plan, this walkable area of Berkeley is an ideal fit for compact infill development. The proposed five-story building will include 164 beds in 41 suites. Renting a bedroom here is anticipated to be more affordable than it is in UC-owned housing, achieving its affordability through more communal living arrangements with common kitchens, lounges, and laundry areas. Students living here will be able to sunbathe on the roof or watch a DVD in the on-site movie room. For less money than students pay to live in a shared bedroom on campus, they will have the option of living in a private bedroom nearby.
Currently, the site is occupied by a parking garage and community facility owned by the neighboring St. Mark’s Church. The community facility and aging parking structure will be rebuilt and will continue to provide public parking during the week and weekend parking for members of the church.
Students living at Lions Hall will not have any dedicated car parking; instead, they’ll have access to ample bike parking and will be able to use their AC Transit pass, included in the cost of tuition, to catch a bus to most any destination. Greenbelt Alliance is glad the developer is working to make the pedestrian experience more pleasant along Ellsworth Street and is expanding the green building elements of the project as it evolves.
Students living here will still enjoy the feel and social interactivity of an on-campus dorm as well as the convenience of being able to walk to class, while paying rent that is competitive with campus housing.
Adding more homes near campus for students allows more of them to live a pedestrian-oriented lifestyle, and also encourages students to support local businesses, such as the many eclectic shops along Telegraph and Shattuck.