Berkley’s plaza project could get started within the next couple of months. The provided rendering dates back to last year, and the school district has stated that it will meet with WCI Contractors Inc. to solidify the final design.

Berkley’s plaza project could get started within the next couple of months. The provided rendering dates back to last year, and the school district has stated that it will meet with WCI Contractors Inc. to solidify the final design.

File rendering provided by the city of Berkley


Berkley council, DDA, school board all approve plaza construction

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 28, 2021

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BERKLEY — After months of delay, the Berkley plaza project recently took a big step forward.

The three entities involved in the project’s development — the city of Berkley, the Downtown Development Authority and the Berkley School District — all approved a bid from WCI Contractors Inc. to construct the plaza, possibly later this year.

The Berkley Board of Education approved the contract July 12, and the DDA Board of Trustees followed suit July 14. The item came before the City Council July 19, where it received its final approval.

“We wanted the project to happen,” said Berkley Schools Deputy Superintendent for Finance, Facilities and Operations Larry Gallagher. “We believe in the scope of work and what that’s going to be to that part of the high school campus, and frankly that part of downtown — the DDA district.”

The project originally went to bid in September 2020, but it was delayed after the three entities received a higher price than they anticipated. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and the difficulty of getting project bids during the winter, the decision was made to halt the process and rebid at a later date.

In the meantime, the city, DDA and school district all agreed to increase the amount of money they were willing to put into the project for their next fiscal year budgets, which began July 1. They all doubled their initial investments of $30,000 apiece to approximately $60,000.

Once they secured the funding, the three went back to bid and contracted with WCI for $160,594.

“They did have a modest increase,” Berkley City Manager Matt Baumgarten said during the City Council meeting. “(It) actually was lower than was expected by the three entities. … We actually are very happy with the price that we have here.”

The plaza will be located next to Berkley High School on Coolidge Highway between Catalpa Drive and Sunnyknoll Avenue. The three entities have spoken about their hope for the area to become a centerpiece not only for the school, but for the city, where anyone can visit to eat lunch, read books, see guest speakers or look at art.

According to Baumgarten, the bid dollars will cover the construction of the plaza space itself, street furniture, art displays and other elements that will be added later.

“We’re hoping to do some additional fundraising through the downtown partnership nonprofit in order to raise funds for those,” he said.

Gallagher said the district “strongly” believed this part of town needed the investment. He added that the district will look to book a meeting with WCI this week to further discuss the scope of the project.

“(The meeting will) be to revisit the scope and their timing and crew availability and material availability,” he said. “I’m almost certain that that is the case because the bid document included that. ... We just want to make sure that the scope that was bid matches what the initial scope that we thought — the district thought — was intended.”

If everything works out the way Gallagher hopes, the project could commence in the late summer or early fall.

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