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Berkeley BART Station Rotunda And Benches To Be Removed In Renovation

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- A bustling plaza around a heavily used BART station is about to get a makeover. And for better or worse, it could change the look and feel of downtown Berkeley.

Roughly 40,000 people come through the downtown Berkeley BART plaza each day.

John Caner with the Downtown Berkeley Association said it's the heart of the city and the heart of the community. But the heart will get a major transformation.

The BART rotunda will be gone, the benches removed and the red bricks will be replaced.

In a year, it'll be a glass structure with a lot of open space. The leading architect says it's about openness and transparency.

BART architect Tian Feng said, "It's where transportation and people's lives converge."

Caner said there will be sidewalk seating and a cafe.

"There'll be public art, LED lighting," he said.

Berkeley leaders say this is the first of many projects turning downtown transit-friendly. They plan to reconfigure Shattuck Avenue, add a bike lane on Hearst Avenue, and build a new garage with 720 parking spots and space for 300 bicycles.

Berkeley transportation manager Farid Javandel said, "There's private development that's going to add a lot of people in downtown, beyond what we've already got. It's really busy now, it's going to be even more busy."

New buildings are popping up all around the plaza. Just across the street, developers will build a high-rise hotel and a block away, the city approved the construction of a large apartment building. The transit improvements are meant to keep up with the growth.

"It's a win, win, win for the Berkeley community," Caner said.

But some people don't like what it'll do to the homeless.

UC Berkeley student Dilpreet Sahota said, "might be a play by the city and the county to displace people."

Berkeley resident Jane Hoyer said taking away the sleeping benches could be targeting homeless people in the community.

The BART renovations are expected to be done by September 2017, with a price tag of more than $7 million.

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