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Dingy to 'Darling': Manitou Avenue Makeover

by Michael Hussey, ASLA, RLA, Planning Manger, NV5
Editor Stephen Kelly





Manitou Avenue's "road diet" converted four travel lanes to two travel lanes and a center lane for left turns, emergency vehicles and delivery truck parking. The center lane was necessary for deliveries. Most stores don't have room for deliveries behind their buildings, as Fountain Creek or the mountainside interfere. The center turn lane is paved with patterned, colored concrete to add emphasis, and to break up the asphalt paving used for the travel lanes. The reduction of one traffic lane allowed widening the narrow sidewalks by 6 feet on each side, creating 11 to 12-foot sidewalks for greater pedestrian movement.



Manitou Springs, Colo. (pop. 4,992) is centrally located in the state, just northwest of Colorado Springs, southwest of the Garden of the Gods and east of the towering 14,115-ft. Pike's Peak. "Manitou," a Native American word (French spelling) for "spirit," is known for its small town charm, its 11 mineral springs and a historic district rifle with art galleries, gift shops and trading posts with Native American handicrafts.

In 2003, however, the city fathers and a number of citizen groups took a hard look at Manitou Springs' historic downtown. It was clearly long suffering from age, neglect and a decaying infrastructure. Back then, Fodor's Travel Guide characterized Manitou Springs as "quaint, but [a] dingy little town."

 




Before the renovation, narrow, broken sidewalks and obstacles in the walks, such as utility poles and trees, greatly restricted walkability. A preponderance of overhead utility lines, some no longer in use, were not only unattractive, but spoiled views of the mountains. Placing utility lines underground was critical in creating a clean, uncluttered look.



Revenues were down, and there were multiple vacant storefronts. The city tittered on the brink of bankruptcy, and there was even talk about annexation by Colorado Springs. No one doubted the city needed revitalizing, and the first step in that effort would be the design and construction of a new streetscape for main street, Manitou Avenue. The city hired an economic development director, who in turn retained Nolte Vertical Five (NV5) to provide program management assistance to the city and the Manitou Springs Economic Development Council (EDC) for grant writing, funding strategies, civil engineering design, urban design, drainage analysis, roadway design, landscape architecture, surveying, construction specifications, drafting, construction observation, and other work for the downtown revitalization project. An overall conceptual plan was developed, which was broken down into seven phases. A proposed construction schedule, anticipated costs and potential funding sources were established. As the project progressed, a series of successful grant applications, and preliminary design, final design, and construction documents were prepared for each phase.

 




BEFORE




The first streetscape phase completed was the Shoshone Spring demonstration project, which gave residents an example of the improvements that would transform the downtown. New sidewalks were divided into a minimum 6-foot wide "pedestrian zone," and a 5-6-foot wide "amenity zone." The pedestrian zone is paved in a light red colored concrete to simulate sandstone slabs historically used for Manitou sidewalks. The city codes specify this color for the historic district. The double loop-style fencing is steel with a black powder coat, which is historically used throughout town. It was custom constructed by a subcontractor to the general contractor.



Funding
NV5 helped determine the process and possible funding allocations for the Manitou Avenue revitalization plan, and worked with the EDC, the city, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) to determine the status of potential, current, and future funding streams.

Public Involvement
A major component for the success of the revitalization effort was public involvement and community buy-in. To encourage community support, NV5 developed a conceptual plan for the "Shoshone Spring demonstration project." This project was completed as a first phase to provide an example to the community of what the avenue plan and its various urban design elements would look like. NV5 assisted the city's project manager with presentations of the project to the city boards and commissions. This involved preparation of presentation materials, participating as a technical consultant and holding public open houses. NV5 also had the responsibility of contacting and meeting with property owners along the project corridor. The involvement of stakeholders was continued throughout the project to gain agreement on the design, keep communication open and accurate on all issues, maintain momentum, support and enthusiasm for the project and maintain coordination with affected businesses during construction. Public involvement was further extended to include bi-weekly project progress meetings with the Manitou Avenue Liaison Group (MALG), which included city staff, representatives from the city's stakeholder boards and commissions, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and affected utilities.

 




BEFORE




The Cheyenne Spring pocket park now offers planting buffers, seat walls, new fountains and paving. 'Spring Snow' crabapples are left, and existing green ashes (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) right. From 2006 through 2011, the various phases of the Manitou streetscape garnered eight awards, including the 2011 Governor's Award for 'Downtown Excellence for Best Public Space."



Design Challenges
The Manitou Avenue revitalization project had no lack of challenges and issues. The avenue lies between Fountain Creek and the side of a mountain, so there were areas of the project that presented significant topographic difficulties, especially while trying to meet ADA standards. The project area extended from the face of the buildings on one side of the street to the face of the buildings on the opposite side for approximately 2,900 lineal feet. As with many older downtowns the first challenge is working within the existing environment of historic buildings, walls, and features and utilities. Walkability was a major challenge because of narrow, broken sidewalks and obstacles in the walks, such as utility poles and trees that further restricted the walkable space. A preponderance of overhead utility lines, some of which were no longer in use, adversely impacted views, especially of the surrounding mountains.

 




The pedestrian lighting is refractive acorn-style luminaires with 100-watt high pressure sodium lamps atop 'Washington' pedestrian poles. The sidewalk benches ('Classic' series) and trash receptacles ('Steelsites' series) are form Victor Stanley. The 60-inch square tree grates are from the 'Metropolitan' collection (Neenah Foundry Co.).



Once phases were identified and funding acquired, NV5 prepared for the first phase of the redevelopment to be completed, the Shoshone Spring demonstration project. This project gave the public an example of the improvements that would transform their downtown area. For this portion of the project, NV5 provided the inventory/analysis (administration, data collection), surveying, preliminary design, design development, final design, contract documents and construction administration. Scope of the design addressed issues such as:

• Lane geometry
• On-street parking
• Walkable sidewalks
• Bus stops
• Pocket parks for public gathering and rest areas
• Signage, street furnishings, street and pedestrian lighting
• Preservation and enhancement of historic springs
• Preservation and use of historic buildings and materials
• Street art
• Coordination with owners of private vaults underlying the street ROW
• Landscape and irrigation
• Public and stakeholder involvement
• Coordination of public utilities
• Coordination of telecom companies
• Coordination with CDOT
• Coordination with city staff, commissions and committees

 




The design and construction of a mountable (as opposed to "barrier") roundabout at the Ruxton Avenue/Manitou Avenue intersection was intended to relieve congestion at this intersection caused by traffic to and from the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. It was designed as mountable to allow large trucks room to make their turns when delivering equipment for the railway. Colored concrete and colored, broken glass were integrated to create a mural for the center of the roundabout.



Significant features of the new streetscape in response to some of these issues included:
• A "road diet" that reduced the Manitou Avenue from four travel lanes to two travel lanes and a center lane for left turns, emergency vehicles and delivery truck parking. The center lane was necessary, as most stores did not have delivery access in the back because of Fountain Creek, or the mountainside. The center turn lane was paved with patterned, colored concrete to add emphasis and to break up the asphalt paving used for the travel lanes. The reduction of one traffic lane allowed for the widening of existing narrow sidewalks by approximately 6 feet on each side creating an 11 to 12-foot sidewalk, which greatly improved pedestrian comfort and safety.

• New sidewalks were divided into a minimum 6-foot wide "pedestrian zone," and a 5-6-foot "amenity zone." The pedestrian zone is paved in a light red colored concrete, in accordance with the city's codes for the historic district to simulate sandstone slabs historically used for Manitou sidewalks. The amenity zone paving is reddish-green concrete pavers that simulate "greenstone," a local sandstone used throughout the town for walls, walks and buildings. Natural greenstone is no longer available, other than in limited amounts through salvage. Street furniture, street/pedestrian lights, signage underground electric lines, and irrigation lines were located in the amenity zone leaving the pedestrian zone clear of obstacles. The pavers will allow for easy repair of the lines if needed.

 




Bump-outs at pedestrian crossings with seat-walled planters improve pedestrian safety and offer space for landscaping and additional seating. The striping announces the crosswalks. The center travel lane uses the same sandstone colored concrete as the sidewalks. The sidewalk trees are 'Spring Snow' crabapples.



• The creation of the Shoshone Spring and Cheyenne Spring pocket parks provided opportunities for historic interpretation, access to mineral spring waters, pedestrian rest areas, and children play areas. The design included new fountains, paving and plantings.

• The relocation of the Stratton Spring font, replacing the old wooden arbor with a new metal arbor, and construction of a new base for the font sculpture.

 




The old wooden arbor made way for a new metal arbor (ICON). The Stratton Spring fountain was relocated and given a new base, a cast-in-form colored concrete to simulate greenstone. The seat wall is the same faux greenstone fascia, capped with sandstone. The grey pavers are from Pavestone.



• Removal and undergrounding of overhead utility lines and the removal of associated utility poles, thereby eliminating a source of significant visual pollution and opening up views of the streetscape and surrounding mountains.

• Landscaping to enhance the visual appeal and ambiance of the downtown.

• Bump-outs at pedestrian crossings with seat-walled planters that improve pedestrian safety and provide space for landscaping and additional seating. Bold striping identifies the crosswalks across the travel lanes, with the same colored concrete used for the sidewalks cutting across the center lane.

• The design and construction of a totally mountable roundabout at the Ruxton Avenue/Manitou Avenue intersection.

 




In the "amenity zone," reddish-green concrete pavers (right) simulate "greenstone," a local sandstone used throughout the town for walls, walks and buildings. Natural greenstone is no longer available, other than in limited amounts through salvage. The electric and irrigation lines were moved underground to leave the pedestrian zone clear of obstacles. The pavers will allow for easy repair of the lines if needed. The sidewalk trees are 'Fallgold' ash (Fraxinus nigra).



Construction Administration & Observation
NV5 was responsible for conducting the construction meetings and ensuring the project schedule, construction staging, subcontractors, pay requests and all coordination requirements were met. A field inspector monitored the daily activities onsite and communicated through conversations and reports to the city and other stakeholders. As part of the construction administration, NV5 reviewed revisions or changes to the design, prepared change orders, communicated any changes to the city or CDOT, reviewed quality assurance testing, and coordinated all of the project closeout procedures. As the project has progressed sales tax revenues have increased each year. The downtown district is now at full retail occupancy. In recognition of this metamorphosis, Manitou Springs was named one of the "America's 10 Coolest Small Towns" by Budget Travel magazine. The final phase was completed in 2013.







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