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From Empty to Plenty
Orange Street Alley, Redlands, Calif.

Shawn Burch, STB Landscape Architects, Inc.

From Empty to Plenty

Known as the Orange Street Alley in Redlands, Calif., the 280-foot street was transformed by STB Landscape Architects, Inc. After about four months of construction, the alley became a pedestrian environment filled with colorful umbrellas, art and restaurants. 350 umbrellas are suspended in the air by steel cables running the length of the alley, providing shade for pedestrians as they stroll through. The alley contains 4 street lamps and 16 planter boxes. Recessed strip lights are situated above to illuminate the pedestrian walkway and artwork.

Orange Street Alley in the City of Redlands, Calif. used to be an empty and broken-down space, but not anymore. STB Landscape Architects Inc. has transformed the alley into a downtown pedestrian environment, producing life and color into this once abandoned area.

The Start
The City of Redlands Quality of Life Department informed us that the Director wanted to discuss a new project, a decrepit alley in Redlands. It seems that the City Manager had been traveling and discovered an alley in another city that had been transformed into a pedestrian destination.

Once we started our field research we discovered that the alley was really a hidden gem and with some creativity, we could fulfill the City Managers' vision. All of the buildings lining the alley were over 100 years old with great brickwork and detailing. The Director wanted the alley to create a viable pedestrian destination, with some seating, tables and entertainment opportunities. The downtown area had been struggling like most urban cores and the thought was that the alley might attract more pedestrians into the area.

The Challenges
The major setback came from the local electrical provider. The provider required that the largest truck in their fleet have the ability to get through the entire length of the alley, which placed major constraints on our design. There was also some pushback from nearby businesses due to restrictions once the alley was declared a "park" and there were complaints about the spending of tax dollars on the project. Additionally, we had designed a small entertainment area with large shade sails in a wider area but the city could not come to an agreement with the property owner. We are hoping that this can be resolved in the future.

The Transformation
The umbrellas are a result of a traveling City Manger. He came back from a trip where he had seen them and knew that the 280-foot alley street would benefit from their addition. Since we couldn't tie them into the adjacent buildings, as they are private property, steel cables suspend them.

The yellow features on the walls are metal ducts from the various HVAC units in the buildings. Since we couldn't remove them we emphasized them with paint and made an artistic statement.

We also incorporated larger versions of the city's ornamental street light poles into the major entry structures. The custom planters along the alley street were designed to introduce some green and act as art placeholders in the 2' square area beside them. The intent is to have rotating artwork, displays and contests for local artists.

A major design element in the alley is the use of decorative pavers that are laid in a random wave pattern. We had used the same pavers and custom color scheme in a nearby plaza to create a connection from one downtown pedestrian area to another.

All of the restaurants have appeared after the alley's transformation. The city rents spaces to them and there are several more slated to open soon. The alley has been a hit on social media, been featured in local papers, showed up in the AAA magazine and a short movie "Alien Anthropologists" was filmed in the alley last year. Local artists, with property owner's permission, are now vying for wall space to apply their talents.

As seen in the August 2018 issue of LASN Magazine

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February 26, 2020, 8:47 pm PDT

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