Dipping into its original list of potential retail store locations, Apple is in negotiations to lease a 5,250 square-foot space in an upscale shopping district of Berkeley (N. Calif.). The city is across the bay from San Francisco, and is home to the prestigious University of California–Berkeley, with 36,000 students and 1,600 faculty, and a major federal research facility. As first reported by the Berkeleyside Web site, the space at 1823 Fourth Street housed a local furniture store for 17 years, but has been vacant since mid-2009. It features a 54-foot wide storefront that is set back about 20 feet from the sidewalk to create a small plaza-like area. The interior is interrupted by wood columns supporting the roof over a two level space, and a side area that features a mezzanine office area. Typically, neither city officials or Apple would confirm the company’s interest in the space. However, sources confirm Apple has been talking to city planning officials about how the building might be modified to accommodate Apple’s style of retail. Fourth Street has been in flux since the 2008 economic downturn. City officials say retail sales along the street have declined nearly 24 percent over the last two years, with several tenants vacating their shops. Even so, the two-block district still includes a several popular restaurants, a Peet’s Coffee and other specialty retailers. Sources say Fourth Street was one of several locations in the San Francisco region that were identified by Apple’s real estate team in 2000 as potential store sites.
The current arrangement of the building suggests that several modifications would have to be made to accommodate a traditional Apple store, including removal of the support columns, replacement of the roof, removal of the cargo and personnel door on the left, and most likely the extension of the building forward to the sidewalk line. At the same time, the roof line could be raised to include a full mezzanine level.
Although planning officials in several other cities have objected to Apple’s architectural proposals, it’s likely that Berkeley won’t block this store on design grounds. General economic conditions, the city’s jobless rate and retail vacancies throughout the city would mitigate any city objections.E-mail this story