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Jam Session by Jason Hill, LASN Robin Critser, Cella Barr Associates Despite a Limited Budget and Narrow Window, Downtown Phoenix Gets Dramatic Make-Over What do you do when you are given a major downtown streetscape project, a budget of just $6.9 million dollars and a deadline of 15 months to complete it? How about driving the lane for a slam dunk? A partnership consisting of Freedman, Tung and Bottomley (FTB, urban design and town planning), the Cella Barr Associates (engineering), the City of Phoenix and the Downtown Partnership was given just that task to be completed before the 1995 NBA All Star Game, to be held at the America West Arena. To the delight of the fans, in this case pedestrian traffic, members of the project fired home a game-winner before the buzzer and dynamically changed the face of 18 blocks of Downtown Phoenix. "They wanted downtown to cater to pedestrian traffic," said the projects Landscape Architect Gregory Tung (FTB). "Since its completion, we have gotten a positive response from the people." Before 1995, the downtown streetscape design in Phoenix was typical of any other Sun Belt downtown. The infrastructure was a grid of one-way streets with fast-moving traffic. Large sky-scrapers lined the streets with little relief for pedestrians. Over the years, Phoenix has spent millions of dollars on broadening the cultural base of the city and adding new amenities to draw in pedestrians. But the cramped sidewalks remained and pedestrians sought relief in downtown Scottsdale and Tempe. To solve this problem, the city began a visioning process to see what was needed to be done to bring the people back to downtown. FTB was retained to contribute to the design concepts and was then asked to oversee construction. The first order of business was to reorganize the streets. "At the time we began, no street in the grid was any better than any other street," Tung noted. "We then singled out certain streets to carry the traffic (which remained one-way streets) and others to become pedestrian friendly (converted to two-way streets)." The logic behind this was sound. On the three-lane one-ways, traffic moved rapidly. By converting to a two-lane, two-way street, it slowed traffic considerably and reduced the hazard to pedestrians. To add convenience to the streets, parking was divided into two types. One side of the street would be designated for angle-in parking, which enhanced the perception of accessibility, and the other would remain parallel parking only. Once that was decided, a decision then had to be made about where to put trees. Tearing up or extending the existing sidewalk to add the trees would have been costly, so an alternative was sought. Using one of their projects in Mountain View, CA as a model, FTB created a network of trees placed on the street, in-between parking spaces. "We lost a little parking space, but it was an even trade-off," Tung explained. "By placing the trees on the street, it enhanced the perceived separation between pedestrians and passing cars. It also made drivers low down, increasing advertising opportunities for business along the street." Deciduous Palo Verde trees and Palo Brea trees were planted in areas west of Second Street where tall buildings had been built. According to Tung, the shorter trees created a more pedestrian scale when tall buildings were the backdrop. Taller Date Palms were planted to the east, creating better enclosure where building heights were more erratic. To highlight the trees, 100-watt metal halide B17 lamps were created by Lithonia-Hydrel and installed in the 6'x 6' planters. The up lighting not only enhanced the aesthetic value of the trees at night, but also increased safety. Major relocation of utilities was handled by Cella Barr Associates. The project called for creating new underground electrical, water and sewer lines. Installation had to be done around the existing lines, as well as storm drains and other structures which extended underground. Achen-Gardner, the general contractor, aided Cella Barr Associates in keeping the project progressing and confronting any challenges, the largest of which was keeping construction from causing too much interference to downtown business. Lighting the streets needed special consideration. The City of Phoenix, like many desert cities, has a dark-sky regulation which states no unshielded light can go into the sky. Still, the city wanted to illuminate the street with a minimum of five foot-candles. Standard, high-pressured sodium lights were ruled out because, according to Tung, the yellowish hue makes everything look sickly. FTP decided to install Sentry Lighting's Indianapolis and specified them to have the lamp placed high in the hood so no light escaped skyward. Each light contained two, H-5 fixtures. Prior to the building of the Diamondbacks' Bank-One Ballpark, the America West Area was the anchor to downtown Phoenix. To highlight this, FTP chose a different route for the lighting on Second Street, which terminates at the arena. Designers used the sandstone and pueblo features of downtown as their inspiration and designed unique, precast column light fixtures. The columns, which were designed to mimic sandstone, are 30-feet high with metal caps to direct light from eight individual H-1 Tower Down Spots toward the ground. They also used an H-2 at the bottom of the fixture adding uplighting. Kiosks which resemble the tower lights were also installed to act as posting places for upcoming events and a general information guide for pedestrians. To complete the project, FTP installed benches and trash cans from LFI's Scarborough line. To give the city a painted-desert style feel, benches, trash cans and the Sentry Indianapolis street lights were painted purple. "Normally those features are black or green, but we felt that was more of a Northeastern style," Tung said. "The public reaction has been mixed. Some love the color and some can't stand it and accused us of using that color because of the Suns. There was no such influence. We wanted to give Phoenix a regional feel." The project, which covered 18 blocks (6,800 linear feet), was completed within the budget and was ready to go when Michael Jordan and friends invaded the city in 1995. Although FTP didn't change and of the existing pavement the company was still able to give the downtown area a new home uniform, so to speak. "Second Street was a good example of what we were able to accomplish within the budget," Tung concluded. "With those towers, we were able to create a theatrical effect. When you walk down the street, it's almost like you are on stage." Since its completion, the Downtown Phoenix project has received merit awards from both the ASLA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Lasn Second Street, which dead ends at the America West Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns, was of the only streets in the 18-block project to remain a four-lane, two-way road. Most of the roads either remained one-way, to carry the brunt of the traffic flow, or were converted into two-lane, two-way streets, creating a more pedestrian friendly environment. For the other streets in the project, two H-5 lamps were fixed on top of Indianapolis poles from Sentry Electric. The poles, as well as benches and trash cans used in the project, were painted purple to give Downtown Phoenix a unique flavor. Project designers wanted to create a dramatic, stage-like atmosphere at night on 2nd Street, but had to contend with Phoenix's dark sky policy. Thirty-foot, pre-cast column light fixtures were created for the project. At the top, encased under a metal cap, are eight, H-1 Down Spots. H-2 lamps are located at the bottom of each column so that the uplighting heightens the overall effect.

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June 18, 2019, 9:07 pm PDT

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