Amid delayed renovation, main plaza entrance to Downtown Berkeley BART station torn down

Deborah Chen/Staff

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People hoping to access the Downtown Berkeley BART entrance on Shattuck Avenue and Center Street will be disappointed. As part of a $7.6 million renovation effort, the main entrance’s iconic rotunda has been torn down and is set to be replaced.

The station’s renovation, previously slated for completion by early 2018, has been delayed because of interruptions caused by last year’s rains, according to Rebecca Saltzman, president of the BART Board of Directors. Continued progress on the project this year will depend on how much rain Berkeley sees in the coming months.

Only the metal skeleton of the rotunda entrance remains in place, just a couple hundred feet from one of the station’s new glass entrances and the beginnings of the slate-gray plaza flooring that will replace the red bricks that currently line the walkway.

When Berkeley City College student Warren Baim was a child, his father would bring him to Saturday Cal football games. The two would always take the rotunda entrance from the station up to the street, Baim said.

“You knew you were in Berkeley because you went up the escalator,” Baim said. “But change is part of life.”

Since it was first constructed in the early 1970s as one of the original BART stations, the Downtown Berkeley BART station and its rotunda have remained relatively unchanged until this project began, according to BART spokesperson Jim Allison. The station has never undergone a renovation of this scale.

The Downtown Berkeley renovation is part of a larger effort by BART to modernize its stations. Construction began on the El Cerrito del Norte station a few months ago, and BART plans to modernize its 19th Street Oakland station in the near future, according to Saltzman.

“The (new) design will open up the space a lot more. When people come out of BART, they’ll know where to go,” Saltzman said.

The renovations will not only increase visibility but will also replace one of the nearby bus stops with two stops to decrease traffic congestion, according to Saltzman.

As per current renovation plans, the escalators to the Allston Way entrance will be covered, but the stairs will not because of budget constraints, Allison said. If there is sufficient funding, however, BART will be able to cover the stairs in the future, according to Allison.

But some BART riders are concerned about changes in traffic activity related to the Downtown Berkeley renovations. Berkeley resident Jacob Kornbluth said traffic congestion caused by the renovations has made it “really difficult to get around.” Arianna Benedetti, a UC Berkeley graduate student, noted that the renovations have caused buses to stop in different places.

“I feel that the construction has affected the bus system more than the BART,” Benedetti said.

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.