Public Comment

Berkeley Iceland - A Plan for Creative Reuse

By Tom Killilea
Monday May 17, 2010 - 03:40:00 PM

Imagine Berkeley Iceland reopened with new skating facilities, expanded community spaces, and a new cafe', all filled with kids of all ages. Envision the Berkeley Iceland building widened with a new community housing development designed to enhance the landmark deco look and respecting the neighborhood's character. This is the plan which is the basis of an offer made in recent months to purchase Berkeley Iceland and create a lasting legacy much as as the original design did for over 65 years. This plan provides the vision for a sustainable mixed use complex which the entire Berkeley community can support.  

It is a vision which addresses many City of Berkeley needs and the goals of many in the community:  

· Restoration of a cherished and needed community recreation center based on the historic Berkeley Iceland rink. 

· Creative reuse of a landmark which provides housing in an elegant design. 

· Expanded facilities for larger community events and meetings. 

· Extensive use of green technologies to reduce the energy requirements and carbon footprint of the entire site. 

The concept was designed by Harrison Fraker, an award winning architect, former dean of UC's College of Environmental Design, and Berkeley Iceland supporter. Working with a well known San Francisco developer who is experienced in creative reuse of landmark structures, a plan was created which was the basis for an offer to purchase Berkeley Iceland. 

Under the conceptual plan, there would be two primary developments on the site - renovation and upgrade of the rink, and extension of the North and South wings for two-level housing structures. The new community housing will be made up of two-story one bedroom units grouped in mews with 20 foot central courtyards. Multiple mews sections will be built into the expanded sections to provide scores of new rentals. The overall design will be no higher than the current wings, maintain the facade of the historic structure, and provide the tenants with privacy. A really cool, livable housing development which maintains the character of the neighborhood.  

Berkeley Iceland will be restored with a new, energy efficient ice chiller designed specifically for the rink. Heat produced making the ice surface will be recycled for heating needs in the development, including the new locker rooms. The front of the site will be redesigned to create larger common area by expanding the warm area closer to the ice surface and opening up the lobby area so the magnificent view of the arena is no longer hidden. This will give Berkeley a new option for holding major events and meetings. With new energy saving windows, skaters will experience skating in natural light, further reducing the energy needs of the restored community center.  

In addition to the use of recycled heat and natural lighting, the substantial roof area will be covered with photo-voltaic panels. By one estimate, the roof space could provide more than 80% of the energy needs of the community center. With environmentally sound construction practices, recycling of materials from the development, and reuse of an existing building, the entire project has the goal of a zero carbon footprint from construction to operation.  

This is an opportunity for realizing a real win for the community. The owners would get a fair price for the property. Berkeley would get needed housing units in a creatively designed, low profile development that reflects the landmark structure and fits in with the neighborhood. Berkeley also regains a missing piece of its character, Berkeley Iceland, restored and improved where the community can once again gather in a healthy and active recreation facility in support of the City's goal to create a healthy community for all ages, kids through adults. Combine these with the green initiatives, this plan is a tribute to Berkeley that would be a model for the world on the creative preservation of historic community treasure. I hope that the Mayor, City Council, and members of our community will get behind this plan and encourage a future that benefits all of Berkeley. 

Full disclosure, some members of SBI have been working with one of the parties though SBI itself is NOT involved in the offers or decisions regarding possible offers. We continue to work to the goal of reopening a revitalized community center based around the historic ice rink and will work with anyone to gain that core goal.