Featured Project: Berkeley, Heart of the City

Richard Register is working on this exciting concept: The Heart of the City/Strawberry Creek Plaza Project. Above is a flyover, and below is a description.

The Heart of the City/Strawberry Creek Plaza Project

Utilizing ecological rebuilding and design approaches, the Heart of the City/Strawberry Creek Plaza Project proposes to demonstrate practical, sustainable solutions to the serious environmental and related social challenges facing urban communities globally.

Structurally, a Heart of the City Project in Berkeley’s downtown embracing an ecologically oriented design concept would:

  1. Create a one block pedestrian street on Center Street between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue.
  2. Create a small public plaza.
  3. Incorporate a “daylighted” Strawberry Creek into the site design.
  4. Create buildings that utilize sustainable design principles, including solar energy.

The project addresses:

  • Automobile dependence and transportation alternatives
  • Pedestrian streets, public space, and street design
  • The city and region’s housing/jobs geographic imbalance
  • The need to demonstrate effective green building design, materials, and methods
  • Education and outreach to the community
  • Restoration of urban waterways and green space
  • Local biodiversity
  • Energy conservation
  • CO2 abatement/climate change, and related effects
  • Linkages between environmental restoration and sustainable development

In Berkeley, the project could optimize sustainable features in developments on approximately 3 acres (about 131,000 sq. ft.) of downtown real estate owned by the University of California, Bank of America, City of Berkeley and possibly other interests at a time when Berkeley is more open to new urban planning approaches. The Project advocates a mix of residential, commercial, and arts-oriented development and public open space, including a section of a restored Strawberry Creek flowing through the project.

The initial planning for the Berkeley Heart of the City Project, begun in 1997, was concerned with refining the concept, introducing it to the community and building basic interest and support. We have statements of interest, letters of support and/or financial contributions from over 100 citizen groups addressing a broad spectrum of health, social, economic, and environmental issues. (Click here to read the list of supporters of the Ecocity Amendment, which lists the Heart of the City Project as one of its policies.)

If the Heart of the City Project takes on a broader scope and aspires to connect to larger urban ecological reshaping, it could demonstrate how sustainable development can help pay for environmental restoration through Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) and other land-conservation incentives. For example, development removed along the course of Strawberry Creek between downtown and the San Francisco Bay can, in essence, be added to the more efficient urban center, hence the linkage between downtown development and the creek’s restoration over time.

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