Berkeley, Calif.'s Freight & Salvage Coffee House, an established folk venue since 1968, has begun construction on an $11.3 million project that will boast two performance spaces, six classrooms for music-related workshops and a full-service café.

The new 18,000-square-foot, all-green facility will be located in Berkeley's downtown arts district, approximately one mile away from Freight & Salvage's current location. The project, which is scheduled for completion in early 2009, has been in the works for eight years. The nonprofit Freight & Salvage organization has already raised approximately $7.8 million from private donors.

Freight & Salvage executive director Steve Baker tells that the need for a larger venue came in the late 1990s during a period of "very rapid growth. We were clearly starting to outgrow the facility we're in, with respect to the services we could provide to our audience and the amenities we could provide for our musicians."

Citing such U.S. folk venues as Club Passim (Cambridge, Mass.), The Ark (Ann
Arbor, Mich.), Old Town School of Folk Music (Chicago) and Swallow Hill Music Association (Denver), Baker says many facilities across the country are in various stages of moving into bigger facilities. "[Freight & Salvage] is not an isolated phenomenon," he notes.

Along with a 440-capacity main listening room and a 70-capacity after-hours performance space, the new Freight & Salvage will offer touring artists backstage changing rooms, bathrooms and showers, and additional space to sell merchandise -- amenities not provided in the club's current location. The new facility will also include six classrooms where artists can hold master classes, workshops and group lessons for Berkeley residents.

"The musicians who come and play for us are used to doing workshops and classes when they tour," Baker explains. "It's an extra way from the to earn income. The performers who live in town do a lot of teaching."

The new venue is being built on the site of a former auto repair shop. Rather than tearing down the 80-year-old building, the space will be renovated. "We're dismantling it, reusing as much of the materials as possible and selling off the rest to a number of salvage companies," Baker says. "By the same token, we'll be buying salvaged materials."

Freight & Salvage's plumbing, heating and ventilation systems will be constructed using Green building techniques, according to Baker, who adds that a "living roof" will be installed. "It's sod, grass and a native California plant," he says." It's high-level efficiency for energy savings on insulation."