Apple Stays Quiet on Potential Fourth Street Store

Photo: Construction is in progress behind a barricade on Fourth Street. Official word on an Apple Store opening in the area has yet to be released.
Jeff Totten/Staff
Construction is in progress behind a barricade on Fourth Street. Official word on an Apple Store opening in the area has yet to be released.

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With black partitions surrounding its entire Fourth Street property, construction on an existing building that could house a new Apple Inc. retail store in Berkeley is dependent on city approval of a building permit, though Apple remains reticent about plans to open in the city.

Renovation of the 1823 Fourth St. property is pending approval of a building permit from the city, which will enable Alameda-based architecture firm MBH Architects to expand retail space by 2,555 square feet with the addition of a partial second story, according to city documents.

Since the property has already been zoned for retail use, the opening of a different type of retail establishment in the same location does not need to be approved by the city, according to Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development coordinator. The building permit, which is necessary for architectural changes to the store's physical structure and expansion of retail space, was filed on Nov. 18 by MBH Architects.

The building permit is currently in the "plan check" stage, awaiting approval from a city plan checker who must comb through the store's construction plans and determine whether they meet California and local building codes.

"The city has a legal obligation to make sure the building is done safely according to modern building codes," Fogarty said. "So they're concerned with things like fire safety, building safety, seismic safety (and) disability accessibility."

Nick Leahy, public relations manager for corporate communications at Apple, would not confirm any affiliation between Apple and MBH Architects. He also declined to comment on any plans Apple may have to occupy the Fourth Street property.

"We haven't made any announcements about a store in that location," he said.

A representative from MBH Architects also declined to comment on any sort of partnership they may have with Apple.

Fogarty added that it is common for building permits to be submitted by a contractor or architect rather than the business that will occupy the property.

Though construction on the building has yet to be approved by the city, Apple was given permission to partition the building on Jan. 11, according to city documents. Lynne Tingle, executive director and founder of The Milo Foundation - which has been using the plaza space in front of the location to operate its weekly mobile pet adoption agency - said the partition walls were put up a month ago, enclosing the plaza area and sidewalk and forcing the adoption agency to move to another location down the street.

"It was a great space to be doing mobile adoptions," Tingle said. "It's sort of been a mainstay for animal adoptions on Fourth Street for 15 years."

Despite the buzz surrounding the potential opening, Wai Lee, owner of Modern Accessories for Computers located on Shattuck Avenue, said he expects to maintain his group of loyal customers.

"It's really hard to get an appointment with anyone at Apple," he said. "Our customers just walk in. We have enough resources to do that. We've been around for 26 years."

According to Fogarty, once the city's plan checker approves the building permit, construction at the site can begin, and could potentially be completed by July 2011.


Jessica Gillotte is the lead business reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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