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From Grime to Shine
Landscape Architecture by Clarke Caton Hintz Landscape Architecture

From Grime to Shine

An under-used, unsightly plot of land in the Borough of Glassboro, New Jersey, was converted into a 1.75-acre urban park with a large permeable paver plaza and promenade in between Rowan University, the Rowan Boulevard Redevelopment area, and the Downtown Arts and Entertainment District. The leaders of the effort for the conversion selected Clarke Caton Hintz Landscape Architecture to plan and manage construction of the new area named Glassboro Town Square.

It is laudable for a municipality to recognize the importance of public open space by developing a new central park within its existing downtown. The Borough of Glassboro has demonstrated such vision with the creation of the new Glassboro Town Square. According to borough administrator Joe Brigandi, "Open space, green space is such an important component of any successful, well rounded, walkable, livable community." The Glassboro Town Square provides an open space counterpoint to the downtown buildings, a public "front yard" for the municipal building, and serves as the anchor for the new mixed-use vitality rapidly evolving on Rowan Boulevard and the middle of the Arts and Entertainment District.

Glassboro Town Square forms a spatial and visual terminus of Rowan Boulevard and the hub of Glassboro's Arts and Entertainment District. It is a vibrant 1.75-acre urban park that serves as a bridge between Rowan University and Glassboro's downtown. It sits on what was a blighted parcel complete with a nuisance dilapidated tavern and contaminated gas station.

"If you came here five years ago at five o'clock this place was completely quiet," remembers Dr. Ali Houshmand, the president of Rowan University. "There was nothing going on. Now there is life, economic activities, people are listening to music and kids are playing. That is what it is all about."

From Grime to Shine

At the Veterans Memorial Plaza, rough-hewn granite symbolizes the tenacity of military heroes. Placed throughout the plaza are 13 bands of reddish and light gray pavers, some seen here, that represent the stripes of our flag. Black pavers signify the fallen. The granite monument with the names of local war fatalities was moved from another part of town. Limestone cladding covers the concrete block wall.

From Grime to Shine

Throughout the park, smooth precast concrete forms serve as sculptural seating. Unilock Promenade permeable plank pavers were installed on top of a deep stone base for stormwater retention. Light gray shades were selected to minimize the urban heat island effect.

A public design process was led by Glassboro Partners, a public/private partnership that included representatives of the borough, Nexus Properties and Rowan University. The process articulated requirements for flexible, secure, programmed areas within the park. It had to be useful and playful for all ages without the use of traditional playground structures. It had to accommodate use in all seasons. Clarke Caton Hintz Landscape Architecture was selected to produce the design from schematic design through construction.

Glassboro Town Square was planned with seven distinct places distinguished by their intended uses. Walkways traverse the site, dissecting it into distinct, yet flexible, use areas, connecting various park spaces and providing connectivity to the existing peripheral street grid.

The Great Lawn and the Performance Plaza host large events and gatherings such as summer concerts, outdoor movie nights, festivals or seasonal activities. Grassed mounds create spatial definition, slightly elevated viewing areas and playful site elements for children (and adults!). Multiple types of fixed and moveable seating are located throughout the park. The orientation and placement of the permanent seating provides optimal viewing of the Performance Plaza or events occurring on the Great Lawn.

From Grime to Shine

Walkways intersect the seven different park zones. In this seating area, crushed stone was installed in Invisible Structures' Gravelpave2 system with A 1/4 " of loose stone on top of the porous flexible paving structure.

With a fire bowl and large open permeable paver plaza, the Piazza allows for use throughout the fall and winter months with a seasonal ice rink. COR-TEN steel is a recurring material that reflects the agricultural heritage of the environs while adding durability. Smooth, precast concrete recurs as sculptural seating that is also comfortable.

The Arts Garden is encompassed with perforated COR-TEN steel panels that promote hanging artwork and visual permeability (public safety). The Veterans Memorial Plaza honors veterans of Glassboro with earnestness and elegance. Rough-hewn granite provides a contrasting theme of rugged tenacity, as in the Veterans Plaza.

Native plants dominate the palette. Permeable pavements used for walking surfaces capture large amounts of stormwater and nourish plantings. Granular pavements discourage skateboard use to avoid damage.
Glassboro Town Square represents a success story for publicly-driven, multi-use public space design that integrates sustainable materials and technology in a beautiful series of park spaces that coalesce into a singular public place.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2019.

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November 17, 2019, 5:56 am PDT

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