A project from the city of Berkley, its Downtown Development Authority and the Berkley School District to turn land near Berkley High School into a plaza has faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seen here is a conceptual design for the plaza from August 2020.

A project from the city of Berkley, its Downtown Development Authority and the Berkley School District to turn land near Berkley High School into a plaza has faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seen here is a conceptual design for the plaza from August 2020.

File conceptual design provided by city of Berkley


Construction costs delay Berkley’s plaza project near high school

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 13, 2021

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BERKLEY — In 2020, the city of Berkley, its Downtown Development Authority and school district formed a partnership to turn a plot of land into a plaza.

The vacant land sits next to Berkley High School on Coolidge Highway between Catalpa Drive and Sunnyknoll Avenue. It formerly served as a space for the school’s community garden and also was the home to a storefront and housing property.

The idea for the plaza was to give members of the community — not just high school students — a space to gather. The hope last August was to break ground in October, but the cost of the project has put it in a state of limbo.

Originally the three entities agreed to put in $30,000 each to fund the plaza, but the bids that came back from contractors were much higher than anticipated.

“The bids were, if not double, pretty close to double the budget we had allocated,” Berkley Schools Deputy Superintendent for Finance, Facilities and Operations Larry Gallagher said. “The contractor at that point said concrete cost had skyrocketed and a couple other elements skyrocketed.”

Because the price was more than the three committed to, they decided to table the project until a later date. DDA Executive Director Jennifer Finney said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected many different industries to the point where costs increased for items they wanted in the plaza.

“We wanted to pause a little bit (and wait) to see if some of those prices would come down so we could, ultimately, with the budget we had aligned for it, create that beautiful plaza project,” she said.

The city, DDA and district recently have been talking about the project once again. Because they liked the original scope of the project, the three decided to double their investment to $60,000 each. This brings the total to $180,000.

The three decided to double their respective investments, Finney said, to construct the plaza “correctly.”

“We want it to be a centerpiece in the community,” she said. “We all three came back and decided to jointly raise the budget amount so we could create a beautiful plaza that would last for many years.”

Gallagher said the current thought process has the three entities either going back to the original contractor to discuss the previous bid or rebidding the project to see if they can get a better number in the summer or fall.

The next steps for the project currently are being reviewed. Because nothing has been buttoned up at this point, it’s unknown when the project might get going again or break ground.

“When we put out the bid, there was a pretty lean response, frankly, and that always concerns me,” Gallagher said. “From a district perspective, we always want a robust response, and it might have been the timing of the year; we don’t know that. Because the bid came in almost double what our budget was, we’d figured we liked the scope, we don’t want to sacrifice or water this thing down, so let’s go back to our respective boards. We all think the investment is worth the reinvigoration of that spot, and it’ll be really a hub of the community.”

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