A rendering of what the renovated BART plaza will look like at night. Image: BART
A rendering of what the renovated BART plaza will look like at night. Image: BART

Work on creating a new, brighter BART plaza in downtown Berkeley will start any day now, and those using the trains or AC Transit can expect to find their usual entrances or bus stops changing over the next year.

When construction is completed in September 2017, Berkeley will have a BART plaza with a more open layout, better lighting, a signature glass awning, new bus stops, and places for special events, according to Matthai Chakko, a spokesman for the city of Berkeley. There will be screens displaying real-time arrival and departure times for BART trains and AC Transit buses, as well as better signage directing travelers to UC Berkeley and other locations of interest. The signature red brick rotunda will be gone.

The $7.6 million project, formally known as the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza and Transit Area Improvement Project, will also have bio-retention planters and landscaping that can treat on-site stormwater, according to a BART press release. Restaurants will have space for outside tables, which downtown business boosters hope will create a town square sensibility.

Read more about the BART plaza project on Berkeleyside.

“I think this is going to be really transformative for downtown Berkeley,” BART director Rebecca Saltzman told Berkeleyside in April. “The area right now is very congested. This will really open up the space and improve the biking and walking options to BART. I think this will really be a model.”

The BART Plaza at Shattuck Avenue and Center Streets serves 30,000 daily transit riders who use BART, AC Transit, and UC Berkeley Bear Transit Shuttle. The project is expected to “improve traffic safety and enhance the transit rider experience,” according to a Berkeley press release.

The BART plaza is also a major gathering place for panhandlers and the homeless. While the plaza is a public space and open to all, the new design eliminates pinch points and barriers that hide “problematic street behavior,” such as drug dealing, said John Caner, the executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association. The sight lines in the renovated plaza will be more open, and that, along with more public programming and LED lighting, should make the plaza a more inviting place, he said.

Construction is estimated to take 14 months. While access to businesses and the BART station will remain open the entire time, the BART station entrances will close temporarily during construction — but not all of them at the same time. Bus stops and shuttle stops will also have to be relocated temporarily.

Drawings of the new entrances to BART. Image" BART
Renderings of the new entrances to BART. Image: BART
Renderings of the new entrances to BART. Image: BART

The renovation of BART plaza is just one of a number of improvements to transportation in downtown Berkeley. The city is currently building a new Center Street garage, which will have 740 parking spaces, up from 440, as well as space for 300 bicycles. In 2017, Berkeley plans to reconfigure Shattuck Avenue. It will also break ground in September on the Hearst Avenue Complete Streets project, which will add a new, parking-protected bike lane on Hearst, as well as a sidewalk between Tolman Hall and North Gate, according to Chakko. There will also be several new bike-sharing stations soon, he said.

The city of Berkeley, BART, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, and the Federal Transit Administration are funding the BART plaza renovation.

BART board OKS downtown Berkeley plaza improvements (04.14.16)
Council weighs in on new downtown Berkeley plaza plans (07.09.15)
Open house displays plans for Shattuck Square facelift (06.12 15)
Berkeley BART plaza plans ‘not a bad first start’ (04.29.14)
Berkeley BART plaza workshop comes Monday (01.30.14)
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)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...