School Board OKs Design For South of Bancroft Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:19:00 AM

At a public meeting Wednesday the Berkeley Board of Education unanimously approved a schematic design for the $35 million South of Bancroft project, which would build about 55,000 square feet of new buildings and improve landscaping in the southern part of the Berkeley High School campus. 

The project proposes to tear down the high school’s historic Old Gym and the warm water pool it contains to make room for 15 new classrooms and a new gym. The new design is based on the 2005 South of Bancroft master plan, which was supposed to enhance physical education, build larger classrooms to replace the rooms lost after the demolition of the Old Gym and eliminate parking from the main campus, among other things. 

Designed by Emeryville-based Baker Vilar Architects, the same firm that is designing the rehabilitation of the Bonar Street building at the district’s West Campus site, the project will unfold in three phases by 2013, starting with the construction of a new stadium and facilities building adjacent to the school’s current athletic field. 

Jose Vilar of Baker Vilar Architects told the board that one of the goals of the project was to build an athletic quad for physical education, basketball and pre- and post-game activities. 

The new stadium will have 2,200 bleacher seats, which will allow Berkeley High to host championship tournaments, Vilar said. 

It will also have athletic team rooms and lockers, offices for the coach and the athletic director, a trainer’s room, storage, ticket booth, restrooms and a press box. 

The facilities building will house the campus trash and recycling, maintenance vehicles and a concessions area for the school’s athletic games. 

Phase 2 outlines the demolition of the Old Gym along Milvia Street and the demolition of the existing bleachers located west of the athletic field along Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

“The old bleachers are ugly and unsafe and don’t present a very good image of Berkeley High to the community,” Vilar said. 

New five-row 500-seat visitors’ bleachers will replace the old ones, with restrooms for students and the community on the north and south sides. 

According to a report to the board from Berkeley Unified School District Director of Facilities Lew Jones, the new bleachers will create a more welcoming ambience for the community along the western edge of the campus. 

He added that the current bleachers obstruct the view of the campus from MLK Jr. Way. They would be replaced by lower bleachers for a more “open look.” 

A few parents had insisted at an earlier community meeting that the bleachers be built at an adequate height to allow them to view the games properly. 

Jones said the community’s concerns would be taken into consideration. 

“We will be adding trees to the campus to reduce the ‘heat island effect,’” Vilar said. 

“We are mainly looking at using deciduous trees.” 

Phase 3 includes the construction of a two-story gymnasium, which will have space for a large multi-purpose gymnasium, a soft gym and fitness center and a three-story academic building with 15 classrooms, restrooms and an area for faculty and staff. 

“The gym and the classroom building are two separate structures but will appear as a single building,” Vilar said. “The gym will be connected to the classroom building through a foyer and stairs.” 

Improvements will be made along Channing Way, including a new regulation-size football field, an athletic quad, new gates and security fences and landscaping. 

“The three phases are a systematic method of fulfilling the primary goal of bringing the South of Bancroft [area] into conformance with the north end of the campus and to accommodate the school’s current space requirements,” Jones said. “We are proceeding with something that’s been around for a while. Having said that, I want to add we haven’t changed too much from the original plan. The project is going to be 650 square feet larger than what was originally planned because we have a greater number of locker rooms.” 

The project, Jones said, was slightly more than two percent over budget but added that it was not a matter of concern for the district at this point. 

Construction of Phase 1 is scheduled to be done between April 2010 and June 2011. 

The demolition of the Old Gym is expected to take place between June 2011 and November 2011, followed by the construction of a new classroom building and gymnasium from January 2012 to August 2013. 

The district currently lacks the funds to build the new classroom building, Jones said. 


To view the South of Bancroft project visit: www.berkeley.net/uploads/school_board/2008fall/08-20-08_packet.pdf.