New Downtown facility hopes to integrate campus into greater community

With the groundbreaking of a new academic building set to begin in December, campus faculty and Berkeley community members anticipate a new Downtown facility that hopes to further integrate the campus into the greater Berkeley community.

Berkeley Way West, scheduled to break ground Dec. 21, will become the new home of the campus Graduate School of Education and the department of psychology in lieu of their current seismically unsafe facility, Tolman Hall. The building, which will be located at Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue, will be the first university facility in the Downtown area.

Additionally, the campus School of Public Health will have permanent residence in the new building, after several years of moving from various temporary locations on campus. Along with plans to implement retail businesses on the ground floor, many anticipate Berkeley Way West to help build a stronger relationship between the campus and the city at large.

According to Lisa Kala, assistant dean for administration at the Graduate School of Education, faculty at the Graduate School of Education recognize the importance of being in and a part of the Berkeley community.

“The faculty wanted to make sure the whole open nature of the university is also open down there,” Kala said. “For example, typical offices hours will be held between 8 to 5 so anyone in the community — businesses and students — can come to office hours.”

Along with relocating its office, the campus department of psychology will also be moving its mental health clinic — which provides services to the greater Bay Area community — to the Berkeley Way West facility.

“I think it is a great opportunity for us to be more accessible for the community,” said Ann Kring, professor in and chair of the campus department of psychology. “Those services hopefully will become even more available to those in Downtown.”

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said the Berkeley Way West project will be engaging and inclusive to the city as a whole. The project, however, will remove 150 city parking spaces.

Caner said that in conjunction with the demolition of the Center Street parking garage, the Downtown area will have a shortage of parking spaces and may not have the capacity for people to be in the area.

“We are headed for a perfect storm,” Caner said.

But the campus is considering building a new garage where University Hall is currently located, Caner said, at the intersection of Center Street and University Avenue.

“We fully hope and support that that happens sooner rather than later,” Caner said.

According to Kylie Mulvaney, a campus junior in the department of public health, the prospect of a new facility is exciting and much needed, because of what she characterized as the uninviting and outdated atmosphere in Tolman Hall.

“We become more accessible and more of a drawing factor to the community to show what we offer and how we can participate with the greater area,” Mulvaney said.

Contact Brenna Smith at [email protected].