Renovations planned for Downtown Berkeley BART plaza

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The city of Berkeley is planning major renovations for Downtown Berkeley’s BART plaza, with construction slated to begin in less than two years.

The project aims to improve accessibility and safety at the city’s major regional transportation hub by building new BART entrance structures, installing a new bus shelter for the AC Transit bus stop, resurfacing the brick on the plaza and altering landscaping, lighting and bike parking at the site.

The Downtown Berkeley BART station accommodates 24,000 entries and exits daily, and AC Transit serves more than 6,000 riders in the area each day, according to a grant application submitted to the Alameda County Transportation Commission by officials representing Berkeley and BART.

“It’s one of the major transit hubs in the East Bay, but the plaza itself is really uninviting and really needs a shot in the arm,” said City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the Downtown Berkeley BART plaza. “We have the resources to have a much bolder plan to make this a really great public space.”

Arreguin said city officials acknowledged the need for renovations at the site as far back as 2007. Demolishing the aging BART rotunda and replacing it with a smaller, sleeker entrance and clearing out obstructive planter boxes in the area are just two changes Arreguin thinks will reinvigorate the plaza and the community.

The project aims to improve pedestrian safety by removing the planters and benches at the site and improving lighting, according to the commission application.

“The space we have now is not inviting, and it has invited some people who have not been a positive influence on the plaza,” he said. “If we have a new space … it can serve as a deterrent to illegal behavior.”

Public meetings to collect input from community stakeholders are scheduled for January, according to Arreguin. These meetings are set to include local business owners who believe a more welcoming public space will attract more customers.

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he recognizes the need for improvements at the site, adding that planning for this year’s Downtown Christmas tree lighting reminded him of the plaza’s limitations. Still, Caner said, he is optimistic for what the project can accomplish.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the city,” he said. “We want something that’s artistic … we want something that’s going to be a portal to the city and the university.”

The project will be funded in part by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission that the city won in May.

Detailed designs of the new plaza are scheduled to be completed by December 2014, with construction beginning in August 2015 and reaching completion by February 2017, according to the grant application.

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected].