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"The greatest benefit that a landscape-oriented streetscape brings to a community is the sense of scale--when designed correctly. The streetscape becomes less about vehicles and streets, and more about people and sidewalk storefronts." Walt Cole, EDAW, Inc.

Whimsical public art sculptures like oversized beach balls entertain bicyclists and transformed streets which had been originally "dead-ended" into beach-goer connector parks -- a visual point of reference to where they entered the beach.

To improve the quality of life while keeping in mind issues of low maintenance for their client, the Landscape Architects designed a European-looking streetscape for a major office development in midtown Atlanta. Wide sidewalks, historic streetlights, water fountains that reach toward the streets, and granite paving add to the ambiance. Every side of the project was designed to include landscape, even the parking garage. In Walt Disney Imagineering's model planned city of Celebration, Florida, the Landscape Architects have been part of a team to create a community that dramatically reduces car usage by placing all vital business, recreational and social functions within easy walking distance of each other.

Landscape design is used to improve social interaction in Celebration by allowing residents to rediscover the joy of old-fashioned neighborly socializing on the golf course, on walking trails that meander through the community, from residential porches or even on public benches situated in front of downtown shops and cafes. EDAW was responsible for the aesthetics, while HDR focused on the utility and infrastructure improvements of the Atlantic Avenue streetscape to create a unique project with aesthetics that say "This is the Beach"--from the colorful wave patterns to the playful icons.

Whether it be the Appian Way--the oldest and most famous Roman road--built in 312 BC or the modernized, bustling streetscape of 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, both were designed for specific functions. The strong basalt and stone path supported the Appian Way's use as a military road whereas the touristy 3rd Street has the comfort of benches peppered throughout its pathway and attractive storefronts to beckon visitors. To the average spectator driving or walking down a street, details often times go unnoticed; for instance how the pavement looks, or what kind of light fixtures or water fountains are used. The types of site amenities utilized in a streetscape design can build the character of a neighborhood or community. Visiting tourists and pedestrians do not realize this because their main intent is to enjoy and bask in the ambiance; it is usually the job of the Landscape Architect to evoke these emotions...

According to the Alexandria, VA Landscape Architectural firm EDAW, Inc.--whose projects include streetscape designs roughly 20%-25% of the time--different communities have various needs, priorities and interests. Some communities are very resort-oriented, and as such, look for resort style attractions. While others may be trying to re-establish a historic or cultural district, reinvigorate the retail core of their downtown, or capitalize on an under-utilized resource such as a riverfront or harbor.

Pearl Street in La Crosse (bottom picture, adjacent) exemplifies one such historic revitalization project. Landscape Architects Schreiber/Anderson & Associates of Madison, WI was challenged to design the streetscape of Pearl Street in La Crosse--one of the largest historic distircts in Wisconsin and an important link to the Mississippi River and Riverside Park. This customized project features an array of site amenities themed in the 1920s to 1930s historic period including lights, wide concrete sidewalks, bollards, drinking fountains, and benches. Landscape Architects worked closely with the business community to meet their needs.

The tangible benefits to the community of a well-designed, well-lit and well-maintained streetscape are increased tax revenue resulting from increased sales and occupancy in retail areas and revitalized tourism, and its associated positive employment impacts. Intangible benefits include providing pedestrian oriented open space in a crowded urban environment, recreational opportunities, and increasing the quality of life.

EDAW's Landscape Architects also designed a $53 million ($13 million for aesthetic improvements and $40 million for utilities/infrastructure improvements) Atlantic Avenue improvement project in Virginia Beach, VA. The local significance for this hotel and retail development adjacent to the beach was two-fold: First, the project improved the overall aesthetic appearance of the main retail corridor of the oceanfront. Secondly, the development created more functionality to the area by providing direct (and memorable) access to the beach from the street and from the public parking areas. Streets which originally "dead-ended" at the beach were transformed into pedestrian connector parks--each with its own unique, beach themed icons. Thirty park themes--including giant sea shells, birds in flight, hermit crabs, and sand castles--were designed and built to provide the pedestrian beachgoer with a visual point of reference to where they entered the beach. These icons have also become something of a landmark for the oceanfront and a great photo opportunity for the tourists.

In an annual visitor survey in the Virginia Beach resort area conducted by Old Dominion University's school of business, since the implementation of the streetscape improvement program in the area--which has been accomplished in phases over the past 6 to 8 years--the visitor survey has shown that people have been more likely to return to the oceanfront. In fact, the data has shown a steadily increasing tourist count since the streetscape improvement on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach.

Streetscape also benefits the economy through the increasing opportunities of employment for the streetscape construction itself, and the "domino effect" that the area experiences in terms of private investment and improvements following on the heels of the initial public investment in revitalizing an area. Gil Jevne, RLA, of Schreiber/Anderson & Associates adds that streetscape can provide the community and its residents "a sense of community pride and ownership of a wonderful design they can hang their hat on."

Celebration Village and Town Center [See LASN June 1998, "American Dream."] --a plethora of residential, office, retail, and recreation amenities--is another notable streetscape project by EDAW, who worked as part of a multidisciplinary design team in charge of the design for the exterior spaces. Landscape Architect Walt Cole, ASLA, states the project's local significance is that "since this was a "ground up" development, the project was the surroundings." Celebration was developed by Disney Imagineering (formerly Disney Development Co.) and is the realization of Walt Disney's wish to build a new and innovative real, functioning town. It is a new town that was built from "scratch," and has proven to be hugely successful--not only in terms of aesthetics, but for the people who live and work there.

Cole explains, "The greatest benefit that a landscape-oriented streetscape brings to a community is the sense of scale--when designed correctly. The streetscape becomes less about vehicles and streets, and more about people and sidewalk storefronts." Aside from the technical challenges that are always unique and always unknown until the excavation begins, he adds "the biggest challenge we face in streetscape design is also the design element which is EDAW's "trademark"--bringing out what is unique about a city in the design of its streetscape.

One design focusing on the uniqueness of a city is Ross's Landing in Chattanooga, TN. As the first major project of the City's downtown revitalization program, this $5 million public riverfront plaza--and site of the Tennessee Aquarium--is used for festivals and other public events. Details of significance consist of "artifacts" in the paving which tell the story of the city of Chattanooga: the Coca-Cola bottle (Coke was invented in Chattanooga), train tracks in the paving with the lyrics of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" inscribed, inscriptions of quotes by national and local figures regarding the city, local flora and fauna clues in the paving.

Schreiber/Anderson & Associates believes that 90% of today's trends are historic districts trying to replicate a certain time or era. Their projects, Main Street in Menomonee Falls, WI (see top, middle picture on page 22) and Pearl Street in La Crosse, WI are two prime examples. Cole explains that because they design each community identity in a unique way, it is difficult to predict what the stylistic trends are. He continues, "In terms of urban design and new developments in community planning, neo-traditional communities would be a strong candidate. There seems to be a desire (or nostalgia) for the kind of community that we, as babyboomers, remember from our childhoods." lasn

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June 18, 2019, 8:42 am PDT

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