Telegraph Avenue: business owners and Berkeley residents would like to see improvements. Photo: Nancy Rubin

This weekend a group of design professionals, architects, urban planners and engineers will come together to dream about possible futures for Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue.

The initiative, which will take the form of a “charrette,” topped and tailed by input from members of the public, is being orchestrated by Berkeley Design Advocates (a membership organization of planners, architects and engineers that works to support good planning and design in Berkeley) working with the Telegraph Business Improvement District.

The effort aims to prompt a discussion of what the community wants Telegraph Avenue to become, says Matt Taecker from urban planners Dyett & Bhatia, who is helping organize the event. City officials will attend as well as experts such as urban economist Dena Belzer, architect Ryan Call and planner Jay Claiborne.

A charrette is a brainstorming and drawing session where architects and other designers work to sketch out ideas for buildings, streets and other pieces of the built environment.  It allows the designers and other stakeholders to visualize concepts and ideas.

Telegraph Avenue, as any Berkeley resident will tell you, has had, and continues to have, its share of problems. Its proximity to People’s Park has caused recurring issues for merchants and visitors, the recession took out many businesses on the street, and the intersection at Haste has looked particularly bleak for years with a blighted vacant lot on the north-east corner facing the abandoned Cody’s retail space. Last year’s devastating fire which destroyed the Sequoia Building on the north-west corner was a brutal blow and has left that section of the street looking even more destitute.

In a survey conducted last year, many of the UC Berkeley students whose campus gives onto the street expressed distaste for the area. Half the respondents said they visited the street less than once a month to shop, work, or get personal or professional services preferring to go to Emeryville or San Francisco.

Focusing on the built environment of Telegraph Avenue from Dwight Way to Bancroft Way the charrette will consider questions such as:

  • How can Telegraph regain its strength as a commercial destination?
  • What role can development play and what form should it take?
  • How can improvements to street and other public spaces accelerate Telegraph’s positive transformation, while retaining Telegraph’s spirit?
  • How can Telegraph enhance the livability of the surrounding neighborhood?
  • Can Telegraph benefit from unrealized synergies with the University?
  • How can change promote Berkeley’s tradition of tolerance and social justice?

To inform the designers, BDA will host a briefing on “conditions and considerations” on Friday, April 13 starting at 5pm. BDA will host a presentation of design ideas on Saturday, April 14, starting at 1:30pm. Members of the public can attend Friday’s briefing and/or Saturday’s presentations, but there is limited space. If you would like to attend, please email by the end of Thursday April 12, and indicate which of the two public events you wish to attend.

The email should indicate your affiliation and your address.  If space is available, BDA will respond to you and provide the venue location.

BDA also plans to publish a “white paper” for The Telegraph Project, and it will showcase the charrette designs in a Telegraph storefront. Berkeleyside will keep readers posted.

Telegraph fire site owner plans for temporary resurrection [02.06.12]
Urban think tank: Student visions for blighted Telegraph lot [10.03.11]

City hands ultimatum to Sarachan on vacant Telegraph lot [09.07.11]
What about that vacant lot on Haste and Telegraph? [08.11.11]
Berkeley students want better stores, fewer street people [05.31.11]
City says it is addressing Telegraph Avenue rats problem [02.10.11]
The rats of Telegraph Avenue (video) [01.28.11]

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...