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Jewel of the Platte
Plattsmouth Main Street

Landscape Architecture by HDR

Jewel of the Platte

Located in east Nebraska, the Plattsmouth Main Street district underwent a major renovation. HDR Engineering, Inc. turned this historic city into a downtown pedestrian center. New aesthetic elements included corner nodes to improve pedestrian safety, clay paver accents, planter boxes with trees and perennials, raised planter pots for annuals and seasonal decorations, updated street lights and a programmable plaza for festivals and other events.

Jewel of the Platte

Light poles are able to accommodate flags, seasonal banners, wreath hangers, as well as speakers for a downtown sound system.

Plattsmouth, Nebraska is a historic community of 6,500 residents located along the west bank of the Missouri River, just south of its confluence with the Platte River. Plattsmouth was originally founded in 1854 as a trading post and is one of the oldest cities in Nebraska. Plattsmouth boasts a historic main street with largely intact buildings lining both sides of its main downtown shopping corridor. The Plattsmouth Main Street Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains the Cass County Courthouse and other buildings of historic value.

City Plans
Plattsmouth was mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to separate its combined sewers within the downtown area in order to meet a consent decree. City leaders turned the challenge of constructing new sanitary sewers within the Main Street corridor into an opportunity to complete streetscape enhancements envisioned for Main Street. HDR Engineering from Omaha, Nebraska was already working with the city to address the combined sewer issues. The contract was amended to include the streetscape design and construction services.

Construction began in the summer of 2010, and was completed by fall of 2011. The streetscape portion of the $5.9 million dollar project was $2.9 million and it spanned five blocks from east to west along Main Street. It also covered the side streets one block north and south since additional sewer separation was necessary beyond the Main Street corridor.

Jewel of the Platte

These diagonal parking spaces are an important streetscape feature since Main Street doubles as U.S. Highway 34. Parking is at a 60-degree angle to provide easy access into the storefronts and make the parking spaces easier to get in and out of.

Jewel of the Platte

The streetscape project covered more than five blocks of Main Street. The sidewalks increased in width to improve the walk for pedestrians. The narrowing of the roads allows pedestrians to cross at a shorter distance. The lights on the street turn on automatically when the photocells that detect outdoor light levels fall below a certain threshold.

The City of Plattsmouth established a blue-ribbon Citizens Committee to guide the initial design process and to work with the design team in order to reach consensus on key streetscape features to be included in the revitalization of this historic downtown. The committee mainly focused on aesthetic issues, provided guidance on paving patterns and colors, and advocated for the use of native plant materials. The committee also desired to re-introduce classic-style street lights, an acoustic sound system placed throughout downtown, and the addition of complementary site furnishings including: benches, trash receptacles, bollards, ash urns, and bike racks.

The Revitalization of Main Street
Specific items within the design included new sanitary and storm sewers, new water mains, narrowing of the existing roadway, resurfacing, and an increase of the sidewalk width to improve the pedestrian environment. Patterns and colors utilized in the design were taken from cues found on the adjacent buildings.

A primary focal point of the project was the corner nodes located at each intersection, which are dimensioned in order to accommodate truck traffic while also shortening the distance for pedestrians crossing the street. Clay paving accents, bench seating, wayfinding, signage, and public art celebrate these corners as community gathering spaces. One of the challenges for the design was that portions of Main Street are designated as U.S. Highway 34 and truck turning movements had to be accommodated. Decorative bollards were added to create a safety zone for pedestrians within the corner nodes and the pavement was thickened to allow for trucks to drive over the corner pavement on the sidewalk as they are making their turns. This approach allowed for the functionality of both the pedestrians and truck users to safely navigate these two intersections. The addition of stop signs at each intersection, combined with shortened crossing distances, has resulted in a much safer environment for pedestrians and a better retail environment for merchants.

Jewel of the Platte

Corner nodes and stop signs are situated at each intersection. Clay pavers accompany the concrete in these areas. Also located at the curbs are gathering spaces with bench seating, landscape beds, trash receptacles and signage.

Jewel of the Platte

This photo shows 4th Street, adjacent to Main Street. Its paving within the street is clay pavers, while the adjacent sidewalk is concrete. Lighted bollards are positioned between the sidewalks and the street in order to create a safe, pedestrian area.

Updated lighting along Main Street utilized LED technology to improve energy efficiency throughout the downtown core. The combination of pedestrian height poles between intersections and taller poles at the intersections provides ample lighting levels for the sidewalk, street, and intersections. The fixtures chosen were reminiscent of the historic acorn fixtures that existed downtown during the 1930s. Receptacles are located within the planters to allow for seasonal light displays on the trees.

Plant materials chosen for the planting beds included a combination of native grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers that are known to perform well in tough urban conditions. Canopy trees are located within the corner nodes, and ornamental trees are located in the planting beds between the intersections. City employees plant annuals during the summer in the raised pots and seasonal displays during the fall and winter.

Paving materials consisted of traditional concrete on the main sidewalk thoroughfares and clay pavers in the furnishing zones located at the back of curb where the benches, lighting, planter pots, and landscape beds are located. The paver colors are contextual with many of the historic buildings that exist along the Main Street corridor.

Jewel of the Platte

During events and celebrations, such as in this local concert, 4th Street is closed off and becomes a place known as the Plattsmouth Entertainment Plaza. Those in the downtown area can enjoy the music that is piped through the sound system attached to the lighting poles.

A Place For Downtown Entertainment
A shared-space was created on 4th Street, immediately adjacent to Main Street, that acts as a performance area during events and celebrations. The pavement was installed without curbs; however, lighted bollards separate the sidewalks from the street. A removable stage is stored within a building in an adjacent parking lot for easy setup and takedown. Planter beds were demarcated using salvaged granite curbs that were removed as part of the project. The street can be closed off with removable bollards during events and performances to create a pedestrian only zone. Columnar trees were utilized to minimize visibility issues during performances. Music being played at the plaza is piped into the acoustic sound system throughout the downtown for all visitors to enjoy.

The updated streetscape drew many design details directly from the historic buildings and the intimate pedestrian atmosphere, of the recreated Main Street, has resulted in the street being regularly used for local gatherings and events. Combined with a parallel downtown revitalization plan that provided incentives to restore many of Main Street's historic facades, this streetscape project made a long awaited dream a reality and Plattsmouth has reclaimed its title as the "Jewel of the Platte."

Team List:
Owner: City of Plattsmouth
Landscape Architecture: HDR
Civil, Electrical, and Structural Engineering: HDR
General Contractor: Graham Construction

Clay Pavers: Pine Hall and Glen Gery
Lighting: Sternberg Lighting
Benches and Trash Receptacles: Victor Stanley
Planter Pots: Wausau Tile

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June 18, 2019, 8:41 am PDT

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