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Streetscape Delivers Landmark Appeal to Famous City

By Alva D. Logsdon

The traffic roundabout and streetscapes enhancements transformed the area into a cultural epicenter in a downtown revitalization plan. The contrasting concrete pave stones signify piano keys, symbolic of Music Row.

Home of country music legends, the Grand Ol' Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee is a very popular tourism destination. However, the tangled web of streets and difficult intersections of the Music Row area created confusion for visitors. In the mid-1990s there was great concern that the once vital and thriving business area appeared to be slipping into decline. Following the 1996 announcement that the Country Music Hall of Fame would move downtown, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority (MDHA) agreed to evaluate the economic and physical development issues of the Music Row area.

The comprehensive study concluded that a landmark should be created which would serve as a gateway to Music Row and Nashville. A roundabout was proposed in order to address several urgent traffic, safety and socioeconomic needs. Coupled with a well-designed streetscape, these improvements would create a pedestrian-friendly retail environment and a remodeled urban park to help revitalize Music Row. In addition, a roundabout would simplify the tangled system or intersections that encumbered the area and was confusing to drivers.

"The project involved the design and production of construction drawings for Nashville's first roundabout," said Jim Douglas, landscape architect, Hodgson & Douglas. "The creation of the $3 million dollar roundabout and adjacent Music Row Park created a long needed 'sense of place' and established a center point of focus for Music Row."

An extensive PR campaign was launched to educate Nashvillians about the "Roundabout Rules of the Road." The Tourism and Convention Bureau distributed information cards to tourist.

"The innovative aspect of the roundabout was the way in which numerous needs of the client were resolved primarily by a single engineering design solution," explained James H. Littlejohn, PE, Littlejohn Engineering Associates. "The idea of a modern roundabout was never tried before in Nashville. Furthermore, it was located on an urban hilltop. Since long sight distances are normally required to view the specific traffic patterns of a roundabout well in advance, designing one atop a hill presented a unique challenge. Current techniques were applied to develop an innovative engineering solution."

A free flowing design was implemented to assure functionality. No stoplights are associated with any of the intersections leading to or from the roundabout. Entering traffic speeds are controlled by signage, carefully designed curbing and lane widths that deflect traffic into the circle. Traffic in the circle has the right-of-way and does not stop.

"In addition to the delicate approach and departure grades that needed to be resolved, six to eight feet of the hilltop and surrounding grade had to be removed to achieve the necessary sight lines for approaching traffic," Littlejohn said. "To meet the challenges, existing roadway and streetscape designs were delicately interwoven. The circumferential pedestrian walkway was carefully designed one car length back from the intersections, allowing entering traffic to concentrate only on gaps in traffic free from pedestrian distractions."

Littlejohn added, "There are no pedestrian crosswalks into the inner landscape circle, thus maintaining the free-flow movement traffic. Current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access requirements are carefully incorporated into the pedestrian characteristics of the design as well."

In addition to an innovative engineering design, an aesthetically pleasing landscape design was equally critical in establishing the roundabout as the area's gateway.

The road crown is located one third of the way across the circle. Its location is key for the comfort of the driver. The inside crown is sloped towards the inner curb and super-elevated to keep the driver in the circle.

For the paving material, eight-centimeter concrete pave stones were selected. "We wanted a long lasting material that could be removed and easily replaced if underground utilities needed repair," Douglas said. "We wanted a material that could take the weight of cars and trucks while offering lasting beauty. We looked at many options and felt the red, grey and charcoal colors would be compatible with the adjacent existing and proposed architecture."

"The modular shape of the paving stones allowed the landscape architect to achieve the intended intricate detail of a piano keyboard," said Lance Malesh, GM Pavestone Company. "The contrasting colors create a circular keyboard pattern emphasizing the musical theme. The darker colors also help to decrease the appearance of tire tread and stains. The eight-cm pave stones were selected and approximately 100,000 square feet were used throughout the project."

"The pavers slow the traffic down in the roundabout and offer a beautiful foreground for the 45-foot bronze sculpture, Musica, created by a local artist" Douglas said. "Pave stones were also used for the crosswalks and sidewalks throughout the project. The city wanted a durable base, so the pavers were set in sand on a six-inch concrete base. The crosswalks send a clear message to motorists to watch for pedestrian traffic. The pave stone plaza and walks create aesthetically pleasing places for pedestrian gathering and seating."

The project landscape design included trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials in planters throughout. Street and pedestrian lights, as well as decorative up-lighting, complete the landmark design. Completed in 2001, the project has won two awards, the 2001 Excellence in Development Award for Middle Tennessee and the 2003 Design Award of Honor by the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA).

The Music Row roundabout creates an integral link between the city's music business, the Franklin Street Corridor/Gateway, the Landport and the West End Corridor. The roundabout improves safety and traffic operations while increasing traffic capacity. The Music Row streetscape delivers an exciting ambience signaling the entry to the famed Music City, USA.


Landscape Architects:
Hodgson & Douglas, LLC
Nashville, Tennessee

Littlejohn Engineering
Nashville, Tennessee

General Contractor/:
Civil Constructors
Franklin, Tennessee

Property Owner:
Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA)
Director: Phil Ryan
Nashville, Tennessee

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June 18, 2019, 9:05 pm PDT

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