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Construction Begins on Richmond Transit Village By F. TIMOTHY MARTIN Special to the Planet

Friday October 28, 2005

Plans for a new transit station in Richmond took a big step forward this week. 

Construction is scheduled to begin today (Friday) for the $6.4 million station building, which planners are promising will improve conditions for commuters while breathing new life into Richmond’s troubled ‘traditional’ downtown area. 

The station will service riders of BART, Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor and AC Transit, and will serve as the linchpin of the city’s decade-long plan to spark economic growth downtown by transforming the area into a transit village. 

Richmond city leaders, including Mayor Irma Anderson, said they were happy to see the plan progressing and were quick to point out the station’s importance to both the community and the region. Richmond station is the only Bay Area station linking all three of the region’s major transit services. 

“I am so pleased to see the three major modes of mass transit that serve our community coming together as a regional transit hub,” said Anderson. “It brings these services together into one new, architecturally significant, station building.” 

Ten years in the making, plans call for construction of the new station to last until November 2006, though project managers say the ongoing work won’t disrupt service for commuters.  

When it’s complete, planners say the station will offer greatly improved pedestrian and handicapped access by adding a new elevator and reconfigured stairway. The station will also have plenty of natural lighting from its planned canopy roof, as well as enhanced waiting areas, an outdoor plaza and public art—including a large triptych mural by artists Daniel Galvez and Jos Sances.  

The new, above-ground station will compliment two residential components of the transit village, and will expand the city’s Nevin pedestrian corridor along MacDonald Avenue to connect to Richmond’s Social Security office and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, two frequent destinations for commuters. 

The walkway will be elevated and enhanced with new lighting and greenery. Later phases of the project will bring commuter-friendly retail shops to the area, as well as a realtime message board inside the station’s waiting room. A pedestrian link to Richmond’s civic center is also in the works. 

“We’re making enhancements to make it a focal point for pedestrian circulation, and a friendlier, more welcome place to be,” said Gary Hembree, chief of projects for the Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency, which has been overseeing development of the station. 

Funding for the $110 million transit village project comes from a public-private partnership between a host of state and local agencies and the Olson company, which is developing much of the transit village’s residential component. Olson has already built Metro Walk, a 231-unit development to the west of the station, and will also construct an 800-space parking garage that will replace surface parking for commuters. An additional 300-plus residential units will be built to the east of the station as part of the project’s next phase.  

The sum of Richmond’s current plans adds up to create one of the largest economic development projects there since World War II, when the city enjoyed growth and prosperity from its shipbuilding industry. The years since have been marked by decline, particularly noticeable in the city’s old downtown area where high unemployment and crime plague the neighborhood. 

“The area is in desperate need of revitalization,” said Tom Butt, a Richmond city councilmember. “Having a multi-modal transit center right in the middle of downtown is the most important piece of putting this area back together.”