Berkley’s Downtown Development Authority, school district and city are partnering to build a plaza outside the high school on Coolidge Highway. The conceptual design for the plaza was created by Grissim Metz Andriese Associates.

Berkley’s Downtown Development Authority, school district and city are partnering to build a plaza outside the high school on Coolidge Highway. The conceptual design for the plaza was created by Grissim Metz Andriese Associates.

Conceptual design provided by the city of Berkley


Berkley DDA, school district, city to partner on plaza project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 25, 2020

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BERKLEY — A vacant lot next to Berkley High School, formerly home to its community garden, will be transformed into a plaza.

The Berkley High School Plaza Project is a development between the school district, the city and the Downtown Development Authority. The project will be located between Catalpa Drive and Sunnyknoll Avenue on Coolidge Highway, the location of the school’s community garden and a storefront and housing property that was purchased by the district last year.

Members of Berkley’s city staff, the City Council and the DDA discussed the project at the City Council’s Aug. 10 meeting.

“It is very open to Coolidge,” said City Manager Matt Baumgarten. “It doesn’t give anyone the impression that it is just for high school students, but it also provides them a safe area, shaded space, a collective space that is near the school so they can’t go far during their lunch hour. … Evening time, morning time would be great opportunities for gatherings, safely, of course, but it would be a gem along ... Coolidge.”

The City Council approved an agreement on the project during the meeting, while the district’s Board of Education approved its part of the agreement the same night. The DDA board took up the agreement two days later and approved it.

The agreement between the three parties is for six years, with two-year increments that would automatically renew afterward. If the school district wanted to dissolve the partnership, it would have to be for a “school purpose,” according to DDA board member Matteo Passalacqua, and they would have to provide no less than a 30-day notice prior to the termination of the initial term or any subsequent renewal term.

All three groups have agreed to split the costs for the projects, which Berkley Schools Deputy Superintendent for Finance, Facilities and Operations Larry Gallagher estimates to be at $30,000 apiece.

“I can see students and community members grabbing some lunch up there, reading a book, maybe a speaker comes out,” he said of the space. “Our lead art teacher at the high school is really pumped up about displaying the kids’ artwork, and we can do that routinely and change it out. I think it’s going to reinvigorate that area of town.”

DDA Executive Director Jennifer Finney believes the plaza will be a “true asset” to downtown Berkley.

“Like Mr. Baumgarten said, it’s not just for high school students. It’s for the entire community,” she said. “It’s a place to gather whole events. I think it would be a great asset and also just the partnership that we’ve had now with the City Council, with the school district, with the DDA, it’s a great partnership and I’m hoping … in the future we can collaborate and partner on other projects to help create a better Berkley.”

The city had been eying pocket parks as part of its parks and recreation master plan development. Baumgarten said the city had to forgo discussions for one on Dorothea Road during the budget process. He further stated that the plaza would come in cheaper because of the collaboration between the three entities.

“It does still make a physical improvement along the corridor there,” he said.

Gallagher noted that an Aug. 24 meeting, which took place after the Woodward Talk went to press, would be used to get the bid documents together to send out to potential contractors. He hopes they’ll be able to select one by October, which all boards have to act on.

Gallagher said he doesn’t know when the plaza project will start, but they will try to make it happen this calendar year.

“I could see shovels in the ground in October and into November,” he said of a potential start date. “I suppose there’s an outside shot this would have to wait until next spring.”

Conceptual designs for the project were created by Grissim Metz Andriese Associates, who also were awarded a landscape architectural service contract for $15,000 by the council at the same meeting.

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