Since 1933, Spenger's Fish Grotto has been a Berkeley icon, dishing up shrimp scatter, clam chowder, and other fish-house favorites. Though it was purchased by chain McCormick & Schmick's in 1998, the restaurant has a nostalgic appeal for many Berkeleyites. Over the years, however, its quirky location, adjacent to the freeway, has isolated it from the rest of the commercial developments along Fourth Street, and the lack of foot traffic is jeopardizing its current existence. As Berkeleyside Nosh reports, developers Abrams/Millikan and Jamestown Properties have filed plans to completely revamp Spenger's and the block on which it resides, creating a new development called Fourth and Spenger.
As currently proposed, the development would shrink (but not destroy) Spenger's space, which holds Berkeley landmark status, taking it from 25,000 to 16,000 square feet. Some of the space would be turned into a retail fish market, while another chunk would become an outdoor beer garden. New retail buildings and parking would be created in the vicinity, and a walkway would connect Spenger's and its sister buildings to Anthropologie and Paper Source, which have their own complex down the block. "The survival of Spenger's will depend on generating new customers," the firms say in their use permit application. "At present Spenger's stands isolated in a sea of parking with no pedestrian traffic. It is an island to itself. Our goal is to integrate Spenger's into the fabric of the pedestrian traffic of Fourth Street."
The project is still in the early stages of community review, with the developers hoping to bring it to the city next month. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin early next year, with the revamped center debuting by the end of 2015.