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Community Liveability: Alternate Routes to Enhanced Sustainability By Heather Duval At first glance, projects that involve the development of national parks, the enhancement of image on the edge of university campuses, and the preparation for national ski championships may not seem like projects that require a great deal of transportation expertise. Yet, for Landscape Architects at Colorado-based Shapins Associates, these types of challenging venues have allowed them to utilize alternative landscape approaches to circulation and transportation. As a husband-and-wife team, Jerry Shapins, ASLA, and Ann Moss work hard to integrate softened-impact, multimodal transportation and development for sustainable projects that emphasize the historical, cultural, scenic and recreational aspects of each strategy. Currently visited by nearly five million visitors a year (and projected to host seven to ten million visitors by the year 2010), Grand Canyon National Park represents a World Heritage Site and icon to millions of people all over the world. Seriously outdated, the park's circulation approach did not quite address the necessary sensitive development, preservation and operations management issues. Prior to joining Shapins Associates, Ann Moss became a national expert on visitor management when she led the National Park Service strategy to develop new, alternative transportation patterns that would help preserve the treasured Grand Canyon Resource. Large, complex and politically sensitive, this project involved an extensive environmental impact statement. Parking lots, roads and infrastructure were relocated further from the South Rim of the canyon, while transit, pedestrian and bikeway facilities were introduced. Regional and sustainable planning, partnership formulation, visitor use management and alternative mode transportation planning were heavily emphasized and integrated, along with the preservation and interpretation of the canyon's natural and cultural resources. This successful plan was approved and is being implemented by the NPS; Ann has since been asked to attend workshops to help select appropriate transit systems and implement sections of the plan. Likewise, the University Hill Commercial Area, a traditional university retail area that caters primarily to students, is an active, mixed-use area integrated with extensive pedestrian use. The University Hill General Improvement District-- working with the City of Boulder Planning Department-- hired Shapins Associates to develop a master plan that would synthesize the area with the surrounding neighborhoods and attract a more diverse user base by enhancing the image and functions of the commercial area. Working closely with a steering committee that represented neighbors, students, merchants and the university, the Landscape Architects developed land use, transportation and streetscape design concepts for the district. Appropriately, members of the firm also worked with middle school and high school students to provide a meaningful design experience for students, and to develop ideas which could be incorporated into the planning effort. The final implementation plan recommends various improvements to mitigate traffic impacts and to enhance pedestrian access and image; also included are land use strategies for historic preservation, and incentives for long term redevelopment that would be compatible with local neighborhoods. The transportation and streetscape design solutions improve wayfinding, granting access to public parking and better facilities to mitigate vehicular impacts, enhancing pedestrian activities and public spaces, and incorporating a street furnishings palette that blends youthful and artistic character with the traditional architecture of the University of Colorado. Not immune from controversial topics, the firm has encountered some public friction over its traffic mitigation plan for Pine Street adjacent to downtown Boulder. Still in the development stage, the Pine Street Mitigation Project recommends a system of eighteen traffic circles, attractively landscaped, to slow down cars, improving the safety and ambiance of the neighborhood. While the circles will greatly improve the pedestrian character of the neighborhood, and will please residents who are upset about an increasing number of vehicular impacts-- many drivers do not want to slow down on the enticing straight road. In some cases, particularly resort environments, pedestrian guide signs are important for safe and functional pedestrian access. In anticipation of the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, the Town of Vail hired Shapins/Moss Planners and Landscape Architects (as the firm was then called) to prepare a comprehensive signage plan to help guide International and American visitors to resort facilities and services. Working with traffic engineering and graphic design subcontractors, Shapins/Moss developed a comprehensive plan to develop design concepts for vehicular guide signs for Interstate 70 and the Frontage Road, and vehicular transit and pedestrian guide signs for areas within the limits of the Town of Vail. The proposed system of signage improvements utilizes a common graphic vocabulary of the ski area logo and destination symbols that were applied to standard highway signs, as well as custom signs for street names, bus stops, parking garages, community facilities, and town directories. Recommendations stress the development of signs with minimal mass to reduce the amount of sign clutter, while producing a clean, timeless character that is compatible with the international resort. Guidelines were also developed for sign location, phasing, development cost, messages, color, typeface, and materials. Throughout their designs ranging from park conservation and circulation to graphic design and wayfinding assistance, Landscape Architects at Shapins Associates effectively enhance pedestrian facilities while creating sustainable, functional and attractive traffic solutions.

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December 9, 2019, 11:27 am PDT

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