Urban Design Placemaking Sustainability

9 Great Examples of Reclaimed Space

Downtown Berkeley is fortunate to feature a variety of reclaimed spaces that add value to businesses and properties and contribute to customer experience. Scroll down to see our top picks, and imagine how you might adapt space around your business.



Sol y Luna is a tiny taqueria on Shattuck Ave. It uses a narrow, alley-like space shared with the optometrist next door to provide limited outside, yet mostly covered, seating. The restaurant also offers indoor seating, but it’s the cozy two-tops in the alley that are the most coveted during lunch and dinner hours.

Sol y Luna Berkeley alley reclaimed space


Repurposed garden/plaza

Café Clem makes use of the Berkeley Public Library gardens. The French-themed café and bakery has a few seats inside, but the majority of seating is on the outside patio, which has just enough shade to keep your lunch pleasant while still enjoying the sunny California day. Added bonus: pick up a book and linger over that latte all day—they’ll let you stay as long as you like!

Cafe Clem Berkeley repurposed garden, plaza reclaimed spaces


Converted space

Reclaimed space isn’t just for restaurants! North Oakland’s Temescal Alley and Alley 49 feature 18 shops and artisan workspaces located in a group of early 20th century horse stalls, which used to house the horses that pulled the neighborhood’s historic horse-drawn trolleys. The structures have been repurposed to support a lively and colorful community of small local businesses.

Temescal Alley North Oakland converted space reclaimed spaces


Hidden courtyard

Jupiter is a popular Berkeley beerhouse located in an old livery stable from the late 1800s that makes use of the courtyard it shares with several other businesses. The two-level space is surrounded by original buildings and decorated with a large ivy-covered trellis, a fire pit, and strings of lights.

Jupiter Berkeley courtyard reclaimed spaces


Empty lot

Prizefighter has turned an empty space squashed in at the end of its own building and the next building over into a cozy, heated patio in an industrial neighborhood in Emeryville.

Prizefighter Emeryville empty lot reclaimed spaces


Converted parking lot

Café Lelia is one of Berkeley’s best examples of reclaimed space. The building is a former plumbing supply business run by brothers Art and Mel Ferreira; it was built by their father in the early 1900s. After the brothers retired, the building was converted into a restaurant with the rear parking lot serving as a garden patio.

Cafe Leila Berkeley parking lot reclaimed spaces



La Palmita café is a little family-owned Mexican joint in North Berkeley. Their backyard makes for a cozy patio away from the noise of San Pablo Ave.

La Palmita north Berkeley backyard reclaimed spaces


Sidewalk patio

We’re not sure if Café Gratitude’s sidewalk patio was the intention when the building was built, but it sure makes for a great space! Naturally enclosed on three sides, drafts are kept to a minimum. Planters filled with a variety of greenery offer privacy from the street traffic, but also draw in passers-by.

Cafe Gratitude North Berkeley sidewalk patio reclaimed spaces


Back-of-house service space

We’re not sure what the empty concrete space behind Comal was before they turned it into the lush outdoor space it is today, but we’re sure glad they did. The narrow exit suggests it was used as a service space to store boxes, garbage—all those things you wouldn’t want to carry out the front door. The open-air bar and fire pit make for a unique, inviting space and nearly doubles the restaurant’s capacity—and we think, is a much better use of this secluded space.

Comal Berkeley service space reclaimed spaces

All images: Jennifer Virškus for Opticos Design, Inc.

 Like this article? How about these: