An early conceptual rendering of the new Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza.
An early conceptual rendering of the new Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza.

A new project underway to improve the BART plaza in downtown Berkeley is gaining steam, with a public workshop scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The project, funded in part by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission, includes renovation of the BART entrances, a new bus shelter and a redesigned Constitution Plaza. It is estimated to cost $11.44 million, most of which will be covered by the grant.

Members of the public will have a chance to review the project goals and timeline, meet the design team and share opinions about design sustainability, transit infrastructure, bike and pedestrian amenities, and downtown commerce and arts.

The meeting is scheduled to take place Monday, Feb. 3, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library third floor community room, 2090 Kittredge St.

Via the flyer prepared for Monday’s meeting: “The Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza and Transit Area Improvement Project will serve a signature place-making function for the Downtown Area and improve access for an influx of new residents and employees.”

BART plaza project. Image: City of Berkeley
A conceptual drawing for illustrative purposes. Image: City of Berkeley

The plaza currently serves more than 30,000 daily transit riders including BART, AC Transit, and UC Berkeley Bear Transit Shuttle, according to BART. The project is slated to improve “traffic safety and enhance the transit rider experience.” (See the project application here.)

“Thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of bicyclists traverse the area. However, aging infrastructure and design flaws reduce the accessibility and safety of this major regional transit center. Bus riders lack adequate waiting areas, seating and wayfinding signage. Some sidewalks segments are too narrow for existing pedestrian volumes, and there are substandard curb ramps and poor elevator access for disabled persons. Bicycle parking is inadequate and poorly placed. The secondary BART lighting and maintenance problems, and its bulk restricts sightlines. The current brick plaza surface and vegetation are difficult to clean and maintain,” according to the application.

The project will “redevelop and reallocate the public space surrounding the station, improve pedestrian safety, support commerce, arts and entertainment, replace sidewalk materials and landscaping, and incorporate other design amenities.”

It is tied into the Shattuck Couplet Reconfiguration Project, and will “serve as an invaluable capital improvement to the City of Berkeley, its residents and merchants, and transit riders of the East Bay,” say planners. The city received nearly $13 million in downtown transit-related grants last summer.

Projects funded by those grants, in addition to the BART plaza improvements, include changes to Shattuck and Hearst avenues. The western arm of Shattuck, currently southbound one-way, will become two-way to eliminate the northbound intersection at University. The eastern arm will be reconfigured to make room for more street parking. Hearst Avenue will receive a bike lane, a continuous sidewalk on the south side, and other pedestrian safety features between Shattuck and Gayley Road.

The BART plaza would, under the proposal, retain its triangular footprint, but be reorganized. Benches, trees, bike parking and lighting will be replaced and moved. Handicapped ramps on curbs will be upgraded. There will also be better soil for the trees, storm water run-off improvements, and opportunities for public art and performance space.

The Downtown Berkeley Association has been pushing for these changes for years, John Caner, the association’s CEO, told Berkeleyside previously.

“We see the renovation of BART Plaza as key to the revitalization of downtown,” Caner said. “This is really important for bringing people and new investment to downtown.”

Construction is expected to begin in 2015.

For more information, email Scott Smith, BART Office of District Architect.

New 16-story hotel proposed for downtown Berkeley (12.19.13)
Downtown Berkeley BART plaza slated for major overhaul (11.26.13)
Berkeley set for $12.7m in downtown transport grants (05.28.13)
Berkeley council approves plans to green downtown (01.30.13)
Berkeley’s downtown BART is all roses as part of clean-up (07.17.12)
Downtown PBID passes overwhelmingly (06.29.11)
BART plaza to become an inviting spot (08.04.10)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...