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Rehabbing Historic Murphy Avenue - Sunnyvale, Calif.

Landscape Architecture by Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey (RHAA)
By Nathan Lozier

The Historic Murphy Avenue gateway sign, created by Square Peg Design, fulfilled the community-identified need for greater visibility and promotion of the historic district. The 18-foot tall steel and aluminum columns sit in concrete pedestals. The column grills are waterjet-cut and internally illuminated with LED floodlights. The steel and aluminum bands spanning the columns are 35-feet long. The "Historic Murphy Avenue" sign is aluminum and also internally lit with LEDs.
Photo Credit: Michael Tarr

The Murphy Avenue streetscape rehabilitation and utility replacement project in Sunnyvale, Calif., began when the city received a Transportation for Livable Cities planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. This grant encourages cities to offer transportation choices and linkages, integrate transportation and land use, maximize community and stakeholder involvement, encourage compact development, and support neighborhood revitalization and place making.


To emphasize a pedestrian-oriented shared space, 'Sienna' cobble concrete pavers with charcoal grey decorative bands were placed within the street travelway.
Photo Credit: Michael Tarr

When Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey (RHAA) Landscape Architecture + Planning, a San Francisco Bay area firm with more than 50 years experience, won the project after responding to an RFP issued by the city of Sunnyvale, the firm began collaborating with city staff. Six months of onsite organized public workshops ensued, welcoming property owners, residents, focus groups and downtown development representatives to assist in the planning and redesign of the commercial and entertainment core of Sunnyvale's downtown historic Murphy District. In these meetings the design team presented design alternatives, encouraging public discussion and ranking of pertinent components and street layout options, ranging from a fully pedestrian-oriented street, to shared-space, to a flexible hybrid street.


Due to the numerous utility covers located on the sidewalk zones, the sidewalks are primarily covered with integrally colored concrete, and banded with charcoal grey interlocking pavers.
Photo Credit: RHAA

The goal of this 76,000 sq. ft. streetscape project was to reorganize the street to better accommodate increased pedestrian traffic, outdoor restaurant seating and civic events. This was accomplished with pedestrian enhancements, such as pavers within the roadway, colored concrete sidewalks, gateway monuments, planters and new site furnishings.


Judicious use of select furnishing elements reduced clutter. Dumor '58 Series' black powder coated benches were turned 90 degrees to allow people-watching on both sides of the street. Other site amenities include Dumor '83 Series' black powder coated bike racks and steel domed trash receptacles (Victor Stanley).

Transportation Upgrade
As Sunnyvale's Caltrain Station is located nearby, as well as busy Valley Transit Authority bus stops, this area has a high density of commuters throughout the area. However, this mixed-use core district had lost some of its vitality because of being progressively isolated by increased traffic and limited walkability.

Before the project was implemented, busy streets and a lack of pedestrian crosswalks severely cut Murphy Avenue patrons off from the Caltrain multimodal station, from the Town Center Mall redevelopment and new mixed-use and affordable housing units. The project has improved pedestrian linkages between retail, transit hubs and high-density housing.


The landscape architect worked with arbor consultant HortScience to preserve the 37 mature London plane and Scarlet Sentinel 'Scarsen' maples.
Photo Credits: Michael Tarr

The following enhancements provided the foundation for a highly populated transit-oriented pedestrian core:
• New pedestrian-scaled paving at the Evelyn and Washington Avenue intersections have vastly improved safe pedestrian crossing and visibility from adjacent arterials.
• Gateway arches and signage have improved wayfinding and helping to visually link Historic Murphy Avenue with the Caltrain multimodal station, and the redeveloped Town Center Mall.
• Improved sidewalks on Washington Avenue and Evelyn Avenue have linked these blocks with other downtown streets.

On Murphy Avenue itself, the following features improve the livability and pedestrian vitality of the commercial street:
• Pavers in the travelway, and use of paving design instead of traffic paint, give the street a pedestrian texture, slowing vehicular traffic.
• Two raised mid-block crossings flush with the sidewalk serve as a 'speed table' for cars and invite pedestrians to freely cross the street. One of these mid-block crossigns is more of a mid-block "shared space" plaza--140-ft. long, with a unique paving pattern that ties across the shared space travelway and into the sidewalk zones.
• Large inground planting areas and utility equipment in the planting and furnishing zone have been reduced in size or moved to free valuable space for people to use for seating and outdoor dining. New decorative planter urns add color and lush textures to the streetscape. At the building edge, utility equipment, such as electrical meter pedestals, were removed to create a clear frontage zone with space for outdoor dining and display of merchandise.
• Infrastructure was provided for the regular markets, concerts and festivals that take place on the street, with inground retractable bollards at the ends of the street, power connections and tree twinkle lights.


The master plan shows the pedestrian-oriented design for the one-block section of Murphy Avenue, which is bound on the north by the Caltrain Station at Evelyn Avenue, and the Washington Avenue Town Center Mall to the south.
Credit: RHAA

Street Paving
Interlocking pavers were set on a sand and asphalt profile to create a long lasting and repairable travelway surface. This area creates a pedestrian-quality space where drivers move slowly and pedestrians feel comfortable crossing. Paving patterns extend across Murphy Avenue to create a carpet that unifies the street, giving the impression of a pedestrian-centric promenade, and maximizing space for dining and events. The accent paving bands organize parallel parking, as well as booth placement during farmers' market events.


This before image shows an outdated streetscape, since the redesign the basic asphalt street has been replaced with cobble concrete pavers and the sidewalk with integrally colored concrete and interlocking pavers.
Photo Credit: RHAA

An analysis of the site revealed much of the sidewalk space was underused and wasted space, with poorly maintained planting areas, boxy above-ground planters and cluttered furnishing zones. A reorganization of the sidewalks has enabled greater outdoor use for sidewalk dining, merchandise display and social seating.

As the numerous utility covers were located in the sidewalk zones, the sidewalk was primarily paved with integrally colored concrete, with limited bands of interlocking pavers.


A reorganization of the sidewalks has enabled greater outdoor use for sidewalk dining, merchandise display, and social seating.
Photo Credit: Michael Tarr

Gateway Sign & Wayfinding Signage
The Historic Murphy Avenue gateway sign was created by Square Peg Design and fulfilled the community-identified need for greater visibility and promotion of the historic district. The columns, which stand 18-feet tall, are made from aluminum and steel and sit in two concrete bases, one on each side of the street. Grills on the columns are waterjet cut and internally illuminated with LED floodlights. The "Historic Murphy Avenue" signage is fabricated out of aluminum and internally lit with LEDs. Square Peg Design was also responsible for the wayfinding signage throughout the streetscape project, which includes trailblazer identity and directional signs.

Project Challenges
Coordination of the new and existing underground utilities replacement was particularly challenging, given the density of connections within the block, which included water, electrical, gas, sewer and grease trap interceptors lines, all served from the business frontage on Murphy Avenue. Additionally, the project preserved all 37 of the mature London plane and Scarlet Sentinel 'Scarsen' maples. Custom tree grates were used to minimize root impacts. Another challenge for the project was the need to construct the street in phases, allowing all businesses to remain open and viable during construction. While no vehicular traffic was allowed on the street during construction, broad temporary pedestrian walks with wayfinding signs were in place, either in the sidewalk zone or at the street center with connections to businesses. The master plan by RHAA took nine months to complete; construction drawings took 10 months, and construction and installation took nine months.


Project Team
Design Team
RHAA Landscape Architecture + Planning, Aditya Advani, Nathan Lozier and James Ingels
Garavaglia Architecture - Historic Architecture
RBF Consulting - Environmental
Bellecci & Associates, Inc - Civil Engineering and Survey
Alfa Tech Consulting Engineers, Inc. - Electrical Engineering
Endres Ware - Structural Engineering
Cromb Associates - Cost Estimator
Kleinfelder - Geotechnical Engineering
Hortscience - Arborist
Construction Team
Joseph J. Albanese, Inc.
Cohen Landscape Services Inc.

Concrete Pavers:
• Field paver: Basalite 'Sienna' cobble concrete paver
• Accent Band paver: Basalite Charcoal Grey Cobble concrete paver
• Crosswalk paver: Pacific Interlock Holland
concrete paver
• Truncated Dome paver: Stepstone Granada White
and Charcoal 12"x12" paver
Waste receptacles: Victor Stanley, S-42 with S2 spun steel dome, black powder coat
DuMor Site Furnishings, 58 Series black powder coated
Bike Rack:
DuMor Site Furnishings, 83 Series black powder coated
Street Tree Grates: Urban Accessories 4' and 6' square Chinook, cast iron natural finish
Drinking Fountain: Visco #12H
Planter Pots: Universal Precast Concrete
Trench Drain: Urban Accessories 6" Double Wave
Manual Assist Retractable Bollard:
Cal Pipe Security Bollards
Street Lighting:
Visco pole with Lumec Lighting luminaire
Gateway Signage:
Square Peg Design, Scott Cuyler & Mike Moore

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May 26, 2019, 3:23 pm PDT

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