Telegraph Avenue business leadership propose plan to improve district

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At a quarterly meeting of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, or TBID, business leaders and city officials introduced a plan to improve the Telegraph Avenue area through colored streets and art installations.

The organization, which focuses on improving the Telegraph Avenue economy, discussed the Public Realm Improvement Plan on June 29. The early phase plan details a number of potential improvements that could be made in the Telegraph corridor, which include painting entire blocks of Telegraph Avenue in a solid color from sidewalk to sidewalk, creating raised planters for trees and installing large art pieces throughout the corridor.

“The conditions of the public realm have a huge impact on the pedestrian environment and the business climate for any commercial district,” said Jordan Klein, a contributor to the plan and an economic development project coordinator for the city of Berkeley, in an email.

The plan — funded by a grant from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, a UC Berkeley program that helps finance projects in the communities neighboring the campus — was developed after a previous venture called Telegraph Connects, which sought to install lights throughout the neighborhood, fell through.

The plan has not yet been published and was introduced at the meeting to gauge reception.

The meeting was the first with Stuart Baker — who hopes the plan will bring merchants, vendors and property owners together to improve the district — as executive director of the TBID.

“We’ve got the challenge of being a community beaten down by the realities of a decline in business and street behavior,” Baker said.

One of the plan’s designers, Matt Taecker, said the group was looking for “quick fixes” to the Telegraph area.

By painting the streets and sidewalks bright colors, Taecker said, he hopes to improve the environment of Telegraph Avenue by making people appreciate their built environment.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington — the representative of District 7, which includes the Telegraph area — said that he appreciates the use of art and color in a “world-renowned area” such as Telegraph Avenue but that the details need to be ironed out.

Janet Klein, a craft vendor on Telegraph Avenue for more than 30 years, was wary about potential changes to the neighborhood that would affect craft vendors.

“It’s great that Telegraph is a priority to the city, but we’ve got to make sure that the investment and tradition of street vendors is respected,” she said.

Contact Austin Weinstein at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.