BART board approves renovation of Downtown Berkeley station

Francesca Ledesma/Staff

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The BART Board of Directors approved a project proposal Thursday to renovate and improve the Downtown Berkeley Bart Station by September 2017.

Renovations of the current Downtown station have been in discussion since 2006, and in 2014, Berkeley City Council moved forward with construction plans for the project. Funding for the project was provided through a recommendation by the Alameda County Transportation Commission.

According to city Transportation Division manager Farid Javandel, construction for the project was slated to begin in September 2015 but was delayed by the environmental review process, which took longer than expected.

Once the review determined that the project would not adversely affect the community, the project’s design was finalized, and its team began to collect contract bids in March.

The renovated plaza aims to provide “better access between BART, buses and pedestrian destinations,” Javandel said. The project’s new rotunda, landscape design and LED lighting are intended to create a more appealing environment for passengers and passersby, said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.

Tian Feng, district architect for BART and the Downtown Berkeley project’s director, created the design in collaboration with both city departments and community members.

“We found an overwhelming desire for renovation from the community after several work sessions,“ Feng said.

He described the redesign of the plaza as a “gateway to a new Downtown” area, a key aspect of Berkeley’s Downtown revitalization effort.

The new rotunda will be remade of glass, with features such as a ground-level screen that will enable commuters to see arrival and departure times before they reach the station platform. According to Feng, his design will offer a “unique visual experience,” as people in nearby buildings will be afforded an aerial view of the bustling plaza below.

Similar ground-level screens have been well-received at other stations, Trost noted, adding that the glass canopy at Oakland’s 19th Street station has also garnered positive feedback.

Additionally, the city of Berkeley and BART are calling on artists to submit applications to create artwork for several of the renovated plaza’s glass structures.

Trost hopes that this team effort between BART and the city will create a more appealing station for passengers.

“Everyone knows that rotunda, and giving it a new and modern look would make it more inviting for the Downtown area as a whole,” Trost said.

With the BART plaza redesign, Trost expects an increase in community satisfaction with the Downtown Berkeley area.

“With this new design, we hope that after you get your coffee down the street, you would want to come back and spend time at the plaza while waiting for your upcoming departure,” Trost said.

Construction on the plaza is expected to begin in June, and will cost approximately $7.6 million.

Brenna Smith covers business and the economy. Contact her at [email protected].