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Gateway Project
Reenergizing Downtown Charlotte

By Gregory V. Harris, regional editor






Gateway Gardens, was designed as a result of the concerns raised by the area residents. The gardens connect the Third Ward neighborhood, in addition to providing a place of respite for workers at businesses located at Gateway Village


Charlotte, N.C.'s Gateway Village is central to the revitalization of a section of that city's downtown area that had, until recently, been neglected.

Gateway Village is a mix of residences, restaurants and shops located on a 15-acre site. The landscape architecture firm ColeJenest and Stone provided landscape architecture and civil engineering services for the development of the five-block, mixed use urban village.

The projects consisted of two office buildings and ground floor retail totaling 1.1 million square feet, a 2,700-car parking deck wrapped with more than 500 multi-family residential units, and a centerpiece garden connecting the two main office buildings. The firm was responsible for the civil engineering and landscape architecture aspects of seven overall projects, including streetscape, coordinating the site and plaza design, managing and implementing the artists vision for the project, urban engineering and providing site construction documents.






Gateway Village, the upper complex in this aerial photo, is located in an area of Charlotte known as Third Ward, one of the most diverse of the city's four original quadrants.


The $350 million project, developed by Cousins Properties and Bank of America, opened in 2000 when the first bank employees moved into Building 800, a seven-story, 850,000-square-foot building. The complex also features an eight-story 470,000-square-foot structure, Building 900. A third office building is on the drawing board for the project, but no time-table for construction has been set.

Gateway Village is located in an area of Charlotte known as Third Ward. Third Ward is considered the most diverse of the city's four original quadrants. Ericsson Stadium, home of the NFL's Charlotte Panthers, is located here, and north and west of the stadium is a residential neighborhood of single-family homes, apartments and condominiums.

Prior to the construction of the football stadium and Gateway Village, Third Ward was an area featuring dilapidated and rundown homes, a large scrap yard and crime and drug-filled streets.

Charlotte city leaders spearheaded the revival of the downtown areas, starting from the center and working to the perimeter. Although the heart of downtown began attracting more visitors, foot traffic remained virtually non-existent before the construction of Gateway Village.






The mist fountain features a black and white nautilus pattern. The fountain has 88 jets that produce mist that rises five feet in the center of the fountain and drops to three feet on the perimeter. Fiber optics installed in the jets allow for changing colors of the display.


Firm landscape architects Jane Alexander and Sue Freyler, project co-managers, said despite the area being rundown, backers of the project had to take into account the opinions of residents in the area, as opposed to tearing down Third Ward before refurbishing the area.

"Several streets were abandoned where the project now sits, and there was a fear from some of the residents that the project would fracture, or divide the neighborhood," Alexander said.

One feature of the project, the Gateway Gardens, was designed as a result of the concerns raised by the area residents. The gardens connect the Third Ward neighborhood, in addition to providing a place of respite for workers at businesses located at Gateway Village.

With a cascading landscape of greenery, seating areas, stairs and a fountain, Gateway Gardens serves as both a ceremonial front door to 800 and 900 West Trade Streets and a grand civic space. A curving, tree-lined walkway encompasses an expansive lawn designed for both public and private gatherings.

The gardens are divided into separate "garden rooms"-the water garden, which contains a fountain and water wall; the terrace garden, which features outdoor tables with umbrellas for customers who dine at the numerous restaurants serving Gateway Village.






The landscape was designed to swirl around the fountain, as evidenced by the way the hardscape and plant elements meander around the fountain.

In addition, the nautilus pattern of the fountain spills onto the landscape. Black granite was used on the complex's grand staircase, which can be seen to the lower left and right of the fountain.



The garden is, in essence, a rooftop garden, as a service center for the complex rests below.

"We had to get a structural analysis done because we did not want to exceed the load (on top of the service center)," Alexander said.

Despite being centrally-located in an office complex, the garden was designed to fit into, but not look like a corporate environment.

"We wanted the gardens to be warm, engaging, friendly and not corporate," Alexander said.

Freyler noted that the hardscape elements for the gardens were developed by the pallet of buildings in Gateway Village.

"We wanted to use clay pavers, and if possible, North Carolina-based pavers," she said. "We chose Pine Hall Brick (of Winston-Salem, N.C.) and used their rose-colored pavers for the walking paths in the gardens."






The gardens are in essence rooftop gardens, as a service center for the complex rests below. Several different gardens offer unique seating and interactive opportunities. The terrace garden provides a sheltered area with outdoor tables with umbrellas.r


These pavers were also used on the sidewalks on the perimeter of the complex. Stamped asphalt in a brick pattern was installed across Trade Street adjacent to Gateway Village, taking a page from the brick used on the office buildings. Bricks were used on the walls of the raised planters in the gardens, tying the planters into the architecture of the buildings. Weight was an issue here as well, due to the green space being a rooftop garden. The planters could not be too heavy, but not be constructed so they looked cheap. The planters also feature subsurface drainage, but the installers had to be careful to avoid puncturing the deck.

Gateway Gardens, was designed as a result of the concerns raised by the area residents. The gardens connect the Third Ward neighborhood, in addition to providing a place of respite for workers at businesses located at Gateway Village.






The patio area looks over a misting fountain and water wall.


One of the more striking features of the gardens is a large mist fountain. The fountain, designed by artist and landscape sculptor Ritsuko Taho, features a black and white nautilus pattern. The fountain has 88 jets that produce water droplets that are so small that only a fine mist can be seen. The mist rises five feet in the center of the fountain and drops to three feet on the perimeter. Fiber optics installed in the jets allow for changing colors of the display. As with the wall planters, the drainage system for the fountain could not puncture the deck located below the gardens.

The fountain's black stone is Zimbabwe Black Granite. This stone had to be shipped onsite without core drilling. This was done onsite, as was the installation of the fountain's jets. This tricky task was completed by the firm Dimensional Concepts, with none of the granite being damaged during installation.






There is plenty of seating available in the garden, including benches and tables. The benches are located along a tumbled rock path, while the tables rest on pavers manufactured by Pine Hall brick.


Freyler said the landscape was designed to swirl around the fountain and that the pattern of the fountain spills onto the landscape. Alexander added that black granite was used on the complex's grand staircase, which ties the garden area of the Gateway Village to existing structure located across the street that also have black granite incorporated into their design. In addition, the grassy areas of the garden are lined with speckled black granite.

The original design of the gardens included the use of crushed stone on the edging, but maintenance issues soon arose.

"We do get rain in North Carolina, and after the rains, divots would form in the crushed stone, which caused puddling," Freyler said.

"The crushed stone was replaced with tumbled rock, which is better for maintenance. This also helped to retain the look of the garden."

Freyler said when the complex first opened, not many people set foot on the grassy areas of the gardens.

"It was interesting. The two buildings that frame the park are interconnected, but people never walked on the grass, for whatever reason," she said. "Finally, people started to walk on the grass, and now this area is used quite a bit."






Gateway Village includes Buildings 800 and 900, with the garden area centering the two structures. The entire complex includes more than one million square-feet of office and residential space.


In addition to the office workers and residents living in the complex, the garden has hosted community and outdoor concerts and events. Seating for 1,500 is available in the garden, and the landscape architects had the community in mind when designing the garden.

In addition to Third Ward, the city of Charlotte is benefiting from the Gateway Village project. Prior to construction, very few downtown visitors ventured toward Third Ward. Now, Gateway Village is serving as an anchor for the redevelopment of that section of Charlotte.

"A culinary school will be moving to Gateway Village," Freyler said. "The synergy is this area has definitely picked up."

The school, Johnson & Wales University, will open its $82 million campus in 2004. An estimated 900 students will be admitted in the first year, but the campus is expected to grow to 2,500 students and 250 staff and faculty members by 2007.

"Gateway Village sits on an area that was once underutilized land," Freyler said. "Now, this complex is the first thing visitors see when they drive into downtown."



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November 22, 2019, 12:05 pm PDT

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