Freight and Salvage Begins Year-Long Multi-Million Upgrade

Categories: Arts

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The best place to hear traditional folk, blues and jazz ditties is getting an upgrade. Berkeley's Freight and Salvage Coffehouse is in the process of moving into better, stronger, faster facilities by the beginning of next year. Their new home at 2020 Addison Street will boast a cornucopia of improvements, including a state-of-the-art sound system courtesy of audio masters Meyer Sound that's sure to make a guitar sound mighty twangy. The new digs will also feature a "living roof" consisting of native plants, that will provide open space and habitat for wildlife while being easy on the eyes. Don't worry, Freight and Salvage's current location will remain open for performances until the move, so you won't miss a thing. Lots more when you click "More." -- ASD Staff Report

Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse Begins Construction of Its New Green Performance Space, School, and Cafe
in Downtown Berkeley

Opening of State-of-the-Art Folk Music Venue Set for Early 2009

BERKELEY, Calif., January 30, 2008 - The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, the longest-established full-time folk and traditional music venue west of the Mississippi River, has started renovation of a 70-year-old building at 2020 Addison Street in Berkeley's Downtown Arts District, transforming it into its new, 18,000-square-foot green performing arts and teaching facility.

The nonprofit organization's new home, slated to open in early 2009, will have a 440-seat listening room, double the capacity of its existing venue. The plans also include an additional performance space seating 60-70 people, a state-of-the-art sound system, a café, and six classrooms. The all-ages, family-friendly operation plans to expand its music education program, offering workshops, lessons, and master classes.

The Freight & Salvage, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, will continue to offer the rich variety of music for which it has become famous.

"The Freight has been an integral part of the arts community of the Bay Area since 1968," said Executive Director Steve Baker. "The new facility is a testament to the thousands of people who value folk music and want to help ensure its future.

"The performance spaces and classrooms, in a new, green building in the heart of the Downtown Arts District, give us the opportunity to bring the music to a much greater audience. We look forward to joining the other nonprofit arts organizations - Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Aurora Theatre, the Jazzschool, East Bay Media Center, and, eventually, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and the Magnes Museum - in our new neighborhood."

"The new Freight & Salvage facility adds a major, established, state-of-the-art music venue to the heart of downtown Berkeley," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. "The Freight's concerts will draw many thousands of people each year to the Downtown Arts District, providing a significant boost to the other businesses in the area. With the Freight's arrival, we've reached a very important milestone in our community's vision to revitalize downtown Berkeley."

The design and construction team is following rigorous guidelines for achieving LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the new facility. Work crews are now busy at the new home site, carefully dismantling the building and salvaging materials for reuse and recycling. At the same time, the organization has made every effort to preserve the warmth and special qualities that the Freight's audiences love about the current facility.

"Incorporating the culture and the feel of the current operation is very, very important to everyone on the project team," said project manager Greg Thurman of Berkeley's Terrasset Management Group. "Those concerns fueled the design, from the angles of the walls and color selections, to the use of rugged but aesthetically finished building materials, like concrete, wood, and steel truss."

While the renovation will radically alter the interior of the former downtown auto repair shop, the design retains its façade and immediately adjoining interior space, preserving the building's essential character. Emblematic of the environmentally-friendly renovation, the new front entry incorporates the existing timber roof joists, and the wood sheathing will be reused on the walls.

The Berkeley-based architecture firm of Marcy Wong & Donn Logan designed the new facility. Wong and Logan's projects together include Meyer Sound's Pearson Theatre (Berkeley), Randall Museum Theater (San Francisco), the Jazzschool (Berkeley), and the School of Film and Digital Media at UC Santa Cruz. While a principal at ELS Design Group in Berkeley, Logan designed Berkeley Repertory Theater's Roda Theatre, Fairfield Center for the Performing Arts, and Valley Center for the Performing Arts (Holy Names College, Oakland).

"We've worked hard to maintain the friendly, club-like environment of the Freight. It's part of their culture," said architect Donn Logan. "We've designed the performance space to enhance sightlines and optimize sound quality. We also wanted to create a comfortable place for the audience to socialize before and after the performances."

From Addison Street, Freight patrons will enter a café and lobby space that will double as an additional performance room. Located above the café/lobby, in the mezzanine, will be classrooms, offices, and additional restrooms. The main listening room, situated toward the rear on the first floor, will be open to the second story, crowned by an open, steel-truss roof. Designed to maintain the Freight's welcoming, intimate atmosphere, the listening room offers flexible seating options, with no seat farther than 58 feet from its thrust stage.

Acoustical engineers from Charles M. Salter Associates spent time at the current facility listening to and recording concerts, and interviewing staff and musicians. Their goal is to create a quiet room with warm, resonant sound for an optimal listening experience. Salter's clients include Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Roy and Edna Disney/CALARTS Theater (Los Angeles), the Berkeley Repertory Roda Theatre, and Yoshi's (Oakland and San Francisco).

Meyer Sound of Berkeley, which manufactures professional audio equipment, is providing a new state-of-the-art sound system. "The Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse has provided the Berkeley community with a wonderful venue and diverse array of talent from all over the world for nearly 40 years," said Helen Meyer, executive vice president of Meyer Sound. "We know that the Freight places great value on its current Meyer Sound installation, and it's our pleasure and privilege to supply the sound system for the new venue."

Meyer Sound systems are installed in many of the great venues of the world, including Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, The Fillmore in San Francisco, Sydney Opera House, and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Metallica, Rod Stewart, Celine Dion, Dave Matthews Band, Robert Plant, and countless other artists use Meyer Sound's equipment on tour.

The Shalleck Collaborative in San Francisco assisted Marcy Wong & Donn Logan in laying out the main performance space and performance lighting systems. Ian Hunter of their office is working closely with Meyer Sound to implement the audio-visual system. They are also currently working on the B St. Theatre in Sacramento and the Oakland Fox renovation. Adam Shalleck's other work includes projects such as The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, California Fox Theater (San Jose), and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The Freight's new building will have Berkeley's first "living roof" of California native plants, according to Logan. In addition to its aesthetic benefits, the living roof provides open space and habitat for birds and other wildlife. It also acts as an insulation layer, trapping heat, cool air, and sound. By replacing what might otherwise be a concrete or asphalt surface, the living roof helps mitigate the "heat island" effect, caused when paved surfaces absorb and reflect excess heat.

To minimize harmful runoff from the property, stormwater from the roof will be diverted through a specially-designed bioswale, according to Greg Thurman. The bioswale, or water-filtering system, will direct water through the columns on the building's front façade, under the canopy, and beneath the outdoor café seating area. Water will then be filtered through layers of gravel and aggregate before it reaches Berkeley's sewer system.

In addition to salvaged materials, the Freight will use local suppliers wherever possible. Also, when feasible, builders will use rapidly-renewable materials, such as bamboo, which can be replaced in a relatively short 10-year growth cycle. In all cases, builders will choose the minimum amount of virgin materials needed. Any new wood will be certified as sustainably produced, from planting through harvest, according to standards established by The Forest Stewardship Council.

Project team members have designed the heating, air conditioning, and lighting systems at 2020 Addison for maximum efficiency and to provide the most fresh air and natural light inside the building. Builders will also install low-flow toilets, and systems will be designed to minimize water use. All the paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and carpet will be low-emitting. During and after construction, the project will be a healthier one for workers on the job, staff, and Freight patrons.


The Freight's new home in Berkeley's Downtown Arts District is directly across Addison Street from the Berkeley Repertory and Aurora theaters and the Jazzschool. The new facility is one block from Berkeley High School, one block from BART and AC Transit, and a few blocks from the University of California. A five-story parking garage next door and a six-story parking garage one block away provide ample parking at reduced evening rates.

With the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and the Judah L. Magnes Museum joining the Freight in developing facilities in the district, Michael Caplan, manager of the Office of Economic Development for the City of Berkeley, observes that the city is becoming a major regional center for the arts.

"This building is an important addition to the Arts District," said Caplan. "When it's finished, on any given night, there could be 1,500 people enjoying cultural events in that area, at the Freight, Berkeley Rep, the Aurora Theatre, the Jazzschool, and the movie theaters."

With steadily growing audiences, a revitalized demand for folk and traditional music, and a need for educational programming, the Freight's staff and board of directors began making plans in 1999 to build a new home. With help from the City of Berkeley and the Freight's friends and supporters, the nonprofit organization purchased the downtown property in 2000.

With the construction work moving forward, the organization is committed to raising the remaining $3.5 million it needs to completely fund the $11.3 million project. Musician Danny Carnahan and investor Warren Hellman, the force behind the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, are co-chairs of the New Home Campaign, which has raised $7.8 million to date, including a $1 million grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2006 and a $1.161 million grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment in 2007.

"We are so pleased by and grateful for the support of the City of Berkeley, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the California Cultural and Historical Endowment board, and all of our individual donors who have so generously supported this project," said Freight Board Chair Marci Rubin.


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