The roots of the Fourth Street shopping area began
in the mid 1960's with a vision to develop the area into an Industrial
Park; thus, a redevelopment area was declared by the City of Berkeley.
The area is bound by Cedar Street, Sixth Street, University Avenue and
Frontage Road. As many as eighty old homes were moved or destroyed in
the process. In time, the redevelopment agency's vision failed to attract
industry. Berkeley's business image was so tarnished during the 1960's
by the endless news accounts of political turmoil and activism that
businesses just passed on Berkeley's new industrial park.
The land lay fallow for over 15 years. However,
many businesses thrived within and around the Fourth Street area for
decades and continue to this day. Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto
has served the public in this area for almost 100 years. Truitt &
White Lumber Company has been in business for over 60 years. Brennan's
is still famous for it's Irish Coffee and fresh food.
By 1976 the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency had given
up on the industrial park idea and requested proposals for the development
for a small parcel on Fourth Street. Abrams/Millikan & Kent, a small
design/build firm specializing in hand crafted houses and offices proposed
a concept of a Building Design Center - conceived as a place catering
to the home owner, presented by a guild of businesses specializing in
furniture, stained glass, solar power, hot tubs, lighting, textiles
and interior design. Along with the craft shops and showrooms, AMK built
the Fourth Street Grill, which soon became famous throughout
the country for Mark Miller's great cuisine. Thus, by 1981 a shopping
neighborhood, with a regional clientele, was born.
During the 1980's Abrams/Millikan & Kent and later
Drew Properties developed several additional properties on the East
side of Fourth Street creating the nucleus of a vibrant shopping corridor.
Slowly the street started to move beyond crafts and services, while
still keeping its focus on shops devoted to the environment of the home.
In the last phases of development, extending shopping North and South,
the focus on design has broadened to include a number of independent
shops devoted to fashion and food. Throughout the development, a philosophy
has been maintained of trying to attract retailers that provide unique,
interesting and high quality merchandise.