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Berkeley BART plaza set to reopen—months late [Corrected]

Agency blames rain for delay

After 15 months and $13 million, the city of Berkeley announced today that the Downtown Berkeley Station BART plaza will reopen on Thursday, October 18, with a new design that includes a glass canopy and large-scale public art.

In the summer of 2017, BART closed the main station entrance in downtown Berkeley and demolished the classic icositegragonal rotunda that marked the site since 1973.

Although BART approved the plaza overhaul in 2016, the removal of the rotunda still took many Berkeley residents and BART riders by surprise.

In its place is a new glass canopy and skylight similar in design to those recently installed at other station exits on Shattuck, but with a much larger and more ambitious scale.

Although the canopy doesn’t look nearly as iconic as the old rotunda, it is far less obtrusive, and its glass-heavy design creates clearer sight lines and the impression of more open space around the station entrance.

A rendering of a curved glass canopy over the BART entrance in Berkeley. Rendering courtesy of BART

At the time of the closure, BART announced that the new plaza would take about six months to build and run a cost of $7.6 million.

Instead the whole thing ended up costing nearly double that and taking more than twice as long. [Note: See correction below.]

BART spokesperson Jim Allison says that $1.9 million of the additional costs were for contract options that were actually part of the original proposal and the rest is the result of construction delays, including “some related to winter rain.”

Now that it’s all finally finished the new plaza features what the city refers to as “a stunning new entrance, a state-of-the-art sound and light system for live performances and artist soundscapes, and a dramatic large piece of public art.”

Angelo DeSantis

That piece is sculptor Michael Christian’s Home, a 14-foot replica of a desk globe. Thursday will also reveal sonic artist Chris Brown’s new piece, Flow In Place, which the artist describes thusly:

The plaza’s eight sound poles create a sonic corridor through which excerpts of stereophonic recordings of outdoor music performances and natural sounds from Cuba, Bali, India, and the U.S. move in a free-flowing collage to accompany the movement of pedestrians to and from the BART station. Polyrhythms from many cultures and places merge together, interpreting everyday movement as dance.

A ceremony to mark the new plaza and art cwill kick off at $4 p.m. next Thursday and will feature the Berkeley Symphony emerging from the station and out its new main entrance while playing Joan Tower’s Fanfare For the Uncommon Woman before unveiling the new pieces.

Correction: BART spokesperson Jim Allison says that in fact the Berkeley station overhaul did come in under budget, though it cost more than the figure BART cited when announcing the renovation last year.

Documents from the April 2016 BART board meeting where the Berkeley project received approval record a “base price” of just over $7.6 million. However, additional contract options raised the final project cost to over $12.9 million.

“As for the $7.6M in the original release, that referred to the base contract,” Allison tells Curbed SF, adding, “In retrospect, it should have included the additional options which were also approved at the same time.”