In recent months, the City of Berkeley has taken steps to improve the Downtown Berkeley area by creating better accessibility to local businesses and shops. Among the various construction projects in Berkeley, the Shattuck Reconfiguration Plan has been the most impactful for the area. The project was sent into full blast in early 2019, five years after the overarching Downtown Area Plan was approved by the Berkeley City Council.
The plan consists of various parts involving the improvement of pedestrian safety throughout the city. This includes fixing underground pipelines to improve waterways to prevent power outages and repurposing old buildings to create more room for shops and housing in Berkeley.
This is not the first effort made by the City of Berkeley in the last few years to improve the downtown. In late 2018, the new Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) entrance on Shattuck Avenue opened, complete with new sidewalks, tables, and chairs. This area has been a success for both businesses and locals, giving the community members areas to sit and converse. The Shattuck Reconfiguration Plan aims to benefit the stores in the area in ways similar to the new BART entrance.
Although the outcome of the project is to improve the conditions of Downtown Berkeley for businesses and consumers, the construction process has been hard on businesses. The loud noises from machines have made it difficult for employees to communicate in the store. Mickey Sola, an employee at Juice Appeal, a shop located on Shattuck Avenue, said that “when the construction is going on we can’t hear each other, so we’ve gotten really good at lip reading. It can be really annoying, sometimes it goes on all day.”
Some shops along Shattuck Avenue, like Cricket Wireless, have had access to their stores almost completely blocked off during some parts of the construction process.
Others don’t think the plan will be worth the struggles they have faced throughout the process. Sola brought up the topic of inflation as an effect of the finished construction project: “I feel like [the finished construction] won’t [be worth it] because once that’s done, prices will go up,” she said. “Sure, it’s nice if there’s new homes for some people, but then everything else is more expensive, and we’ll just be spending more money.”
The projects are set to be finished at different times throughout 2020, so future generations of Berkeley High School students will eventually decide for themselves the benefits or drawbacks of the renewed Shattuck Avenue.