When You’re Alone and Life Is Making You Lonely, You Can Always Go… Downtown

petula-clark.jpg…As well you know if you know your Petula Clark.

The question is whether a visit to downtown Berkeley allows you to “forget all your troubles” and “…listen to the music of the traffic in the city, Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty”.

Perhaps not now, but give it a few years.

My last post on the imminent move of Cody’s bookstore to Shattuck Avenue prompted several readers to remind me that ambitious plans are afoot for downtown Berkeley, the details of which are worth knowing if you’re considering buying property in this fair city.

The plans, developed by the city’s Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee over the past two years, aim to remake the currently rather desultory neighborhood into a regional cultural center that would accommodate UC Berkeley’s ambitious expansion plans. They call for a “cleaner and more attractive [area] with more green buildings” that retains a “lively, urban college town feel”, according to Berkeley’s economic development director Michael Caplan.

The proposal includes a new 19-story university hotel and conference center developed by the same people behind the upscale Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Ma; and a new art museum designed by renowned architect Toyo Ito. A look at two of his buildings, below, suggests we’re in for something special.

serpentine_pavillion_2002.jpg 800px-tama_art_university_library.JPG

Serpentine Pavillion, London 2002 and Tama Art University Library, Hachiouji, Tokyo, 2007.

An SF Chronicle article also reported that the plan:

“…suggests several pedestrian improvements, such as closing Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street and possibly uncovering Strawberry Creek, widening the sidewalks, adding public art and lighting and creating a series of small parks. A more elaborate entrance to the University of California is also part of the proposal.”

New construction and landscaping will be accompanied by a crackdown on rowdy street behavior intended to “channel unruly homeless people into shelters and rehabilitation centers”.

The past few years have already seen a significant rise in the number of people choosing to live downtown, in apartments in the Gaia and Fine Arts buildings among others, as reader Toady points out.

All of which points to a promising future for a city which certainly deserves better. I for one can’t wait to head to an “all-grown up” downtown rather than mumble excuses and make for San Francisco as I currently do when visitors ask to go where the buzz is.

[Photo credits: Petula Clark: www.mp3.com/albums/379596/summary.html Serpentine Pavillion www.flickr.com/photos/frankieroberto/276200812/]