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From: "jdent1 AT optonline DOT net" jdent1 AT optonline DOT net
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 14:33:56 -0400
Subject: Berkeley, CA
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From the 4/15/2002 Daily Californian...

Barren Train Stop Could See New Life
City Council Examining Revamp of Old Station

Photo/Ramin Rahimian
A lone passenger waits for a train to arrive near the former Southern Pacific Railroad station in West Berkeley. City off
icials are considering buying the old station and refurbishing it.

Contributing Writer
Monday, April 15, 2002

Waiting for Amtrak may get safer and more pleasant, as the Berkeley City Council is considering a full-service train stat
ion to be located across from the current train stop.

The barren Berkeley stop, where passengers have only a freeway overpass to protect them from the elements, faces the form
er Southern Pacific Railroad station, recently vacated and ready for the city to seize it up.

Mayor Shirley Dean has proposed the city purchase the depot and return it to its original use as a train station.

Passengers waiting at the current stop, which consists of little more than a few benches, said they thought the new stati
on would be a major improvement.

"It's a poor representation of Berkeley," said UC Berkeley sophomore Elena Virgadamo, who was waiting for a train.

Virgadamo also said she thought the station was "unsafe," as did others at the train-stop.

A new station would allow passengers to buy tickets at the stop=97something they can't do now. Currently, passengers must
buy their tickets on the train.

Besides Amtrak aficionados, members of the city's powerful historical preservation community are lining up behind the ide

"What better use for a train station than a train station," said Richard Dishnica, a member of the the city's Landmark Pr
eservation Commission.

That commission designated the depot a Berkeley Landmark in 2001, citing its historic "mission revival" style.

Such a designation can prevent renovation of a building, but the city should not have trouble securing permission to alte
r the structure, said Dishnica.

The idea also has support across the often divided council.

Councilmember Linda Maio, whose district includes the current Amtrak stop, said the the building would "make a wonderful

The city has renovated landmarked structures in the past, including the Civic Center and the Central Library.

But both those projects were expensive=97the library alone cost over $30 million.

And in a city facing a $1.8 million budget shortfall, money for the depot's purchase and renovation may be hard to find.

"We'd have to figure out how to find the money," Maio said.

She estimated the project would cost the city between $1 million to $2 million. She said the cash-strapped city could pro
bably raise some of that through grants, because of the project's historic nature.

The depot building was until late 2001 occupied by Xanadu RestorAsian restaurant, which closed because of economic hardsh

Since then it has stood vacant, giving the city a chance to reclaim it.

"We need to strike while the fire's hot. If another business gets in there, we may not get another chance," said Councilm
ember Dona Spring, who also supports the idea of repurchasing the station.

Dean's plans also call for a restaurant inside the new station.

Despite Xanadu's failure, Maio believes the station's proximity to the popular 4th Street district, as well as the new I-
80 pedestrian bridge, could make the station a dining destination.

Renting out part of the station to a tenant could offset some of the building's acquisition costs, Maio said.

The station could also be the northern terminus of a new line of "shop hop" trains, running from Oakland's Jack London Sq
uare through Emeryville to the new Berkeley station, she said.

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