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 State Street's nine block restoration included 165,000 square feet of new multi-colored concrete sidewalk; 2,000 linear feet of raised granite planters; 2,380 square feet of new sidewalk frames and tree grates; 4,325 linear feet of new cast iron railing; and 15,000 square feet of new ornamental flowering planting beds. The lamp itself is a deluxe, high-pressure sodium lamp, with an above-standard color rendering index of 65 (22 is the standard).  145 new shade and ornamental street trees were installed on State Street. 80% of the trees have been placed in 35' long by 6' wide planters (2 trees in each); 20% of them are protected by tree grates. The planters are encircled with nostalgic, wrought iron railings.

Architectural shape, orientation, and placement of street luminaires and furnishings have become a prevailing strategy to change drivers' and pedestrians' perceptions-- and use-- of streetscapes across the country. Indeed, their placement influences modern-day perceptions and enjoyment of nostalgic days gone past. More and more across the nation, Landscape Architects and city planners are collaborating to restore the historic grandeur and colorful vibrancy of landscapes and boulevards.

The City of Cleveland, Ohio celebrated its 200th birthday in 1996, and in preparation for the event city officials invested over $130 million in waterfront and development projects. For example, Cleveland's RTA Waterfront Line is a 2.2 mile rail extension that provides transportation from Cleveland's downtown center to the river and lakefront, and designers wanted to adorn it with ornamental lampposts. Dale Turkovich, streetlighting engineer for the City explains, "We were looking for a sturdy post with a good finish to replicate the historic cast iron posts originally installed about 1917. The new lamp posts are part of an entire redevelopment project which includes facelifts for the historic store fronts and new sidewalks."

Further west, to counteract a decline in downtown activity, a public-private consortium of downtown retailers, institutions and city government sponsored a "Downtown Strategic Visioning Program," a series of workshops to suggest improvements for downtown. As a result, column lights, event kiosks, banner pole lights pay homage to important influences on the district and region, including the "Pueblo Deco" of the 1930s downtown skyscrapers and the Arizona sandstone of the city's historic courthouse building.

Historically-reminiscent light poles pepper the streetscape, and street trees were uplit for security, traffic safety and attractiveness. Inspired by the colors of the desert they reflect, the light colonnades infuse the downtown district with brilliant doses of vibrancy.

Perhaps one of the best examples of "infusing vibrancy" is a recent restoration project in Chicago, Illinois. To many, State Street represents the heart of Chicago, boasting a history rich in culture and architectural splendor. Nine buildings along the boulevard are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or as Chicago landmarks. Recently completed, an all-out renovation of the streetscape has re-created the historical aura and celebrates its great past.

The Chicago State Street renovation was designed to retain the world-class status of the boulevard. Under the management of the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, the project was undertaken with the involvement of civic groups like the Greater State Street Council. Funded through federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) grants and matching funds provided by the City of Chicago, the project set out to stimulate economic development of the region, accommodate changes in the traffic systems along the boulevard, and to refurbish historic, yet deteriorating, pavements and structures.

Working together with the various city departments, lead architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill translated the combined vision of all of the various groups into a series of clear design principles to serve as the basis for architectural design. Their effort focused on creating a plan which integrates the street back into the larger pedestrian fabric and vehicular circulation network-all under the historical aura of "that great state street." Project Manager Paul DeCelles explains, "Wide sidewalks, over-scaled subway entrances, overly tall streetlights and signs were replaced with new, contextually inspired elements that complement the landmark buildings."

Armed with strong consensus and committed financial backing, the project team set out to accomplish clear design principles including: to integrate State Street into the rest of the city; to allow for the return of cars through widening of the street area; to create a historic character; to bring street lighting to a pedestrian scale; to encourage lighting of the historic buildings; and to coordinate the redesign with the subway and elevated transit improvements and allow for other transportation systems to exist on the street.

Consulting Landscape Architect Ted Wolff of Wolff Associates describes the city's desire to create a "green and shaded street" as a definite challenge. "We put street trees in wherever it was physically possible, although we were severely constrained by the placement of the subway exits and underground vaults. A ground level mixture of shrubs, perennials and annuals in low planters is now protected by curb-level planters. This positioning helps prevent pedestrians from damaging the plant materials and protects the soil from compaction."

Other challenges presented themselves to the designers around every corner of the fast-paced project schedule. There was a real struggle between the urban foresters who desired to incorporate many different species and the Landscape Architects who desired uniformity. According to Wolff, "The landscape design of State Street is strongly integrated into the urban design; most definitely, we wanted a more pedestrian-friendly sidewalk. Ultimately, we incorporated a cast-iron, tried and true urban plant palette." He continues, "Although it was somewhat difficult to coordinate with the tenants and building owners on the streetscape, the widening of the sidewalk has created both a more active and vital pedestrian walkway and a return to the historic splendor of the boulevard."

Historically-inspired lighting with fixtures similar to those of the 1920's now illuminate the grand boulevard. The new fixtures are actual replicas of the original lights President Calvin Coolidge switched on when he opened the street in 1926. The new lampposts employ a two-tiered system with acorn lighting at twenty-seven feet and pedestrian-scale globes at ten feet. The luminaires produce a soft, "white light" which is more natural and friendly, while providing ample illumination for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Globes light up the subway entrances, and the signage on all the kiosks is illuminated as well.

Lighting consultant Jim Baney of Schuler & Shook was thrilled to replicate the period lighting. Five existing poles were salvaged and replicated, and pedestrian-scale fixtures were added. These fixtures shed light in a downward direction, and the white globes are enhanced with a deep blue glow. Baney explains, "We tried to concentrate on the definite quality of light the period fixtures would provide the streetscape... and we also added a new 'blue' flavor of the 1990's."

Across the nation, gracious streetscapes pay homage to their historic buildings and landscapes. These historic renovations support each city's ongoing renaissance, and transform downtown centers into exciting and wonderfully different "great streets." lasn

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June 27, 2019, 2:01 am PDT

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