Telegraph Avenue outfitted with new features as part of campus-city partnership

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About a year and a half after campus began funding the city as part of a plan to redevelop parts of Telegraph Avenue, the street now features bike racks and murals, with additional fixtures — such as solar-powered compactor trash cans — still to come.

The projects — collectively known as the Telegraph Avenue Public Realm Plan, or TPRP — were released by campus, the city of Berkeley and Telegraph Business Improvement District in May 2016 and adopted in June by Berkeley City Council. The plan’s goal is to improve and re-design parts of the “public realm,” which are public spaces located between buildings, such as sidewalks, to revitalize Telegraph Avenue.

Shop owners and those involved in the plan hope to see these projects improve business and safety in the area, with renovations including better street lighting.

“(Fifty years ago), Telegraph was the place for people to come and shop — it was a fashion center, really quite elegant,” said Alex Bergtraun, one of the architects of the plan. “It should be a place for everyone to come and enjoy.”

The plan includes about half a dozen design concepts and fixtures that range from $10,000 to $20,000 short-term projects to million-dollar long-term projects.

Ideas about the project began more than 10 years ago by students in the area in the Telegraph Livability Coalition. About six or seven years ago, Berkeley Police Department released a report on crime prevention through environmental design, and the report, along with community meetings, provided much of the foundation for TPRP.

“Anything they want to add to the street to better it would be great,” said Gail Todd, manager at Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue. “In front of the store now, we have six to eight new bike racks. … It seems it’s improved our block.”

In 2013, Bergtraun and Matt Taecker, principal of Taecker Planning and Design, volunteered their time to hold sketch sessions on what could be done to improve the area. Two years later, Taecker and Bergtraun were contracted and given a budget from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, a pool of money dedicated to strengthening the relationship between campus and the city.

The money from the fund was initially dedicated to “Telegraph Connect,” which would install hanging streetlights, but after the project was found to present fire hazards, the funding was transferred to TPRP.

Jordan Klein, economic development coordinator for the city of Berkeley and a project coordinator of TPRP, said he saw a lack of communication in Telegraph Connect — a problem that eventually proved costly, as around $11,000 had already been spent on the string lighting plan.

“If you’re going to do a community improvement, you want to do it with them, not to the community,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the Telegraph area. “Everybody would say that (TPRP) is a much better use of money (than ‘Telegraph Connect’).”

Lillian Dong covers business and economy. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ldong97.