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Brawley Walkway
Reconnecting Downtown Charleston, West Virginia

Landscape Architecture by GAI Consultants' Community Solutions Group David Gilmore PLA, MBA, Director of Landscape Architecture


The Brawley Walkway in downtown Charleston, West Virginia has a screened wall of 4'x6' 'Lumishield' polycarbonate resin panels with 40% recycled content. Interspersed in the fencing are stainless steel columns filled with decorative river stone, in keeping with Charleston's river city identity. Custom-designed, semi-translucent graphic panels are atop the gabion columns. Their light-diffusion material allows light to be evenly distributed across the matte finish. The graphic panels are internally lit by 6" 'Halo' LEDs. This crisp light (4000K temperature) fills the columns and provides secondary lighting to the walkway.
Photo: GAI Consultants

Charleston, West Virginia's Slack Plaza and Brawley Walkway function as a vital pedestrian corridor linking Charleston's historic business district to the city's major retail and entertainment amenities. The walkway debuted in 1983, and went without major renovation for more than 30 years. By the early 2000s, the three-block walkway had fallen into disrepair. In 2014, the city selected GAI Consultants' Community Solutions Group (CSG) to develop a master plan for revitalizing the corridor. The resulting master plan incorporates several thoughtful applications of inventive lighting solutions--and the first of two project phases is now complete.

Phase I is primarily a linear pedestrian spine linking Charleston's historic downtown core to the east with the city's entertainment and retail districts to the west. To respect the city's beautiful historic district, the lighting design gradually transitions from traditional to a more contemporary theme as it approaches the shopping and entertainment district. The walkways are lined with unique lighting displays and artful paving patterns across the entire corridor to unify the two districts.



Positioned below the graphic panels of each column is a wall sconce with a 4000K color temperature LED. The sconces direct light to the walk and wash the facades of the columns. Sconces are also incorporated on the backside of the panels to light the large parking lot on the other side of the wall.
Photo: GAI Consultants

At the historic end of the corridor, existing Sternberg acorn light fixtures were refurbished with new textured globes, an upgraded lighting source (LED or halogen) and the poles received new black powder coatings, creating a cohesive, inviting entry as the corridor terminates into Capital Street "The design team's primary challenge at this end of the corridor was to stay out of the way and provide a gentle transition onto Capital Street," said Dave Gilmore, PLA, MBA, GAI, CSG's director of landscape architecture. "It's one of the most beautiful streets in the country, and a textbook example of perfect urban scale."

As the walkway moves away from the historic district, the design team had more latitude to incorporate a more contemporary style fixture. Single post top Eaton Arbor Invue fixtures were selected as a pedestrian-scale streetlight at the western end of the corridor in an effort to establish a new fixture palette that can be used for future streetscape projects around Charleston.


The design team added strands of catenary lights to create an even wash of light along the ground plane. The "ceiling" lights are strung diagonally across the corridor. When phase II of the project begins, an additional 500 linear feet of catenary lights will be placed along the historic district corridor.
Photo: Chris Thomas

The highlight of the corridor is a graphic screen wayfinding wall that provides a cohesive link between the two urban anchors. To keep the graphic screen wall from becoming too visually dominant, the design team introduced custom-designed translucent panels fabricated by Lumicor. These provide visually appealing graphics, and are anchored between stainless steel wayfinding columns filled with decorative river stone that reflects Charleston's identity as a river city. In Phase II, the graphic panels will be backlit with RGB LEDs that cast a wash of color on each semi-translucent panel. To facilitate this, the graphic panels are lined with light-diffusion material to help evenly distribute light across the graphics without losing their translucent quality. The lights will include motion-sensing controls, allowing pedestrians to interact with the panels as they pass through the corridor.

David Gilmore, PLA, MBA, director of landscape architecture for GAI Community Solutions Group, notes that it was decided early in the programming that as the linear walkway's primary function was to move pedestrians safely between the corridor's various destinations, a minimalist approach was taken to site furnishings and plantings. "Because the graphic wall represents such a dominant feature across the entire corridor, a lot of effort was spent on its design and detailing to elevate the pedestrian experience of traversing the corridor above that of a typical paved sidewalk."



Single post top Eaton Arbor Invue LED fixtures were selected as a pedestrian-scale streetlight at the western end of the corridor.
Photo: Lj Lambert Photography (top) Photo: GAI Consultants (bottom)

The first of several new forms of lighting introduced across the corridor is the Leotek Esteta LED Wall Sconce near the top of each column. This sconce features a 24H LED of 120-277 voltage, NW 4000K color temperature, and forward-throw distribution. The sconces provide vital pedestrian-scale lighting along the ground plane while also highlighting the architectural features of each column. The sconces were also incorporated along the back side of the columns to provide additional lighting for a large existing parking lot, enhancing the nighttime security of the neighboring property.

Internally, each column features a 6" Eaton Halo SLD 1200 Series LED light that gently illuminates the wayfinding graphics located in the top of the columns. The selected light fills the columns with a crisp light (4000K) while providing additional secondary lighting throughout the walkway.


In phase II of the project the luminescent panels will be backlit with RGB LEDs with motion sensors to detect (engage) the passing pedestrians. Between the panel layers are graphics of trees and woods.
Photo: GAI Consultants

To even out any remaining dark spots, the design team introduced a strand of Primus Lighting Decostring catenary lights to create an even wash of light along the ground plane. The lights are strung diagonally, creating a human-scaled ceiling of light across the corridor. When Phase II of the project begins, an additional 500 linear feet of catenary lights will be placed along the historic district, completing the scheme across the two districts.

Phase II will focus on the complete demolition and redesign of Slack Plaza. GAI CSG's master plan provides an expansive multi-use lawn panel in the core of the plaza that will transform a bleak hardscape into a vibrant, multi-functional public space with dedicated areas for outdoor dining and socializing. The plan also outlines improvements to the plaza's Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority (KRT) station, including a new ticket office and dedicated passenger plaza. To address the crime element, a new city police detachment will take up residence in a structure adjacent to the plaza. "The lighting design for this phase of the project is critical from both a public safety standpoint and to help the space function as a major public gathering space in the heart of town," said Gilmore.



To create an inviting entry where the historic corridor terminates into Capital Street, the Sternberg acorn light fixtures were refurbished with new textured globes, an upgraded lighting source and the light poles received new black powder coatings. The plank pavers of the corridor transition to clay pavers along the sidewalk and at the pedestrian crossing.
Photo: CS Shank (Top) Photo: Lj Lambert Photography (Bottom)

The multiphased design of Brawley Walkway and Slack Plaza has already started to improve walkability in Charleston. New businesses are springing up along the corridor, and a major housing project is scheduled to break ground in 2018. The use of innovative lighting design throughout this redesign plays a significant part in updating a vital link between two major districts--setting new precedents for future improvements.

Project Team
Owner: City of Charleston, W.V.
Landscape Architecture & Master Planning: GAI Consultants / Community Solutions Group, Charleston WV
Civil Engineering:
- GAI Consultants, Charleston, W.V.
- TRC Companies Inc., Charleston, W.V.
General Contractor: Wolf Creek Contracting Co. LLC, Waterford, Ohio

Lighting Manufacturers:
- Eaton
- Leotek
- Primus Lighting
- Sternberg Lighting
Graphic Panels: Lumicor
Custom Steel Columns, Gates: Structural Systems Inc.
Clay Pavers: Pinehall Pavers
Plank Pavers: Unilock
Cast Stone Wall Veneers: Eldorado Stone
Site Furnishings: Victor Stanley

As seen in LASN magazine, April 2018.

November 19, 2019, 11:26 pm PDT

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