The city of Berkeley’s Telegraph district has recently experienced both an economic improvement and an increase in positive perception, according to a report from the city’s Office of Economic Development and an annual survey from the Telegraph Business Improvement District, or TBID.
The report, which compared economic growth across Berkeley’s nine business districts, showed that sales tax revenue for the Telegraph district increased sharply from 2017-18 and vacancy rates of businesses decreased. According to Stuart Baker, executive director of TBID, the Telegraph district area stands out among the other districts in the city.
“While retail is struggling in many places, Telegraph’s unique and vibrant shopping experience is something that cannot be found on the internet—these numbers reflect that,” Baker said in a press release.
In addition to marked economic progress, the Telegraph district also saw an improvement in the way people perceived the area. According to the results of the TBID survey, both business owners and students agreed that the district feels and looks better than it has in the past. In addition, a majority of responders were “somewhat optimistic” about the future of Telegraph Avenue. As a whole, perception of the Telegraph area improved from a rating of “fair” to “good,” according to the survey.
A critical part of the improvements on Telegraph Avenue has been the implementation of the Telegraph Avenue Public Realm Plan, or TPRP, according to District 7 Councilmember Rigel Robinson. Robinson added that the plan was an important way to receive input from residents on what needs to be changed.
“We had a broad community engagement program where we reached out to AC Transit, the university, students and local business owners to chart out a vision for Southside,” Robinson said. “It’s quite a robust plan and it has been my aim since being elected to make sure every piece of that plan is funded.”
Passed in 2016, the TPRP aimed to beautify Telegraph Avenue by following seven principles that focused on revitalizing the area and making it more accessible to pedestrians. Two major parts of the plan were to increase the number of art installments along Telegraph Avenue — ranging from public murals to mosaic trash cans — and make the street more pedestrian-friendly.
The long-term vision of the plan, according to Robinson, will aim to create a commercial district that emphasizes its residents and their day-to-day activities. He added that some of the most important work done along the avenue included the new murals as well as the removal of barriers for projects that would express people’s creativity.
“(We want to) create a commercial district that brings out what makes it special — the people and what they do,” Robinson said.