Berkeley imagines Harold Way as ‘vibrant public plaza’

Photo of the Harold Way street sign
Kyle Garcia Takata/Staff
The Harold Way Placemaking Project has been launched in order to promote redevelopment of Harold Way as a pedestrian-friendly city block.

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As part of an effort to revitalize Downtown Berkeley, Berkeley Design Advocates and the Downtown Berkeley Association have launched the Harold Way Placemaking Project.

The project is aimed at transforming Harold Way into a pedestrian-friendly city block, according to CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association John Caner. Harold Way, located between Alston Way and Kittredge Street, is currently at the forefront of proposed development projects, which many see as an opportunity to transform the street and make it more accessible to pedestrians.

According to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office, the proposed development of two private residential developments along Harold Way gives the city a chance to vitalize Harold Way.

“This presents us with an opportunity to transform the underutilized block into a vibrant public plaza,” Elgstrand said in an email.

The Downtown Berkeley Association and Berkeley Design Advocates will be hosting a brainstorming meeting to discuss ideas for the project on Harold Way on Mar. 19. According to the flier on the Berkeley Design Advocates website, both Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Kate Harrison will be in attendance.

According to Elgstrand, the mayor’s involvement is focused on garnering public engagement for the project.

“I look forward to engaging with the community in hearing what their visions are for this location, in the hopes of making this a reality for all of us to enjoy,” Arreguín said in an email.

According to Ryan Call, member of Berkeley Design Advocates and the Downtown Berkeley Association, the meeting is an opportunity to build grassroots community support for the idea of transforming Harold Way and hear as many perspectives as possible.

The project is still in the early stages of planning, so it is unclear yet how this project will be funded and when it will take place, Caner said. To demonstrate the possibilities for Harold Way, Caner cited past projects aimed at revitalizing Downtown, such as the remodeling of Bart Plaza on Shattuck.

Caner also said the more intimate nature of Harold Way gives the city the opportunity to explore different types of events that “activate the space.”

Caner noted he is hopeful of the project’s success, pointing to the architectural talent present in Berkeley.

“The wonderful thing about Berkeley is we have a wealth of really talented architects — landscape architects, designers, urban design experts and a lot of civic pride,” Caner said. “We are hoping we can tap into that as well as the general community’s input also.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @annavarmstrongg.