09-09-21 | Feature

Industrial Revolution Redo

The Site of 19th Century Innovation Gets Modernized

In Bloomington, Indiana, what became branded as the Trades District was conceived to serve as the heart of an emergent local tech community. Landscape architecture firm Anderson+Bohlander took the lead in designing the new space that encompassed about twelve acres and used to be the home of a celebrated and pioneering furniture manufacturing company.
The pedestrian-oriented streetscape includes curb-less edges, Unilock cobblestone warning strips and locally quarried limestone seat blocks. Trench drains, covered with grates from IRONSMITH, divert overflow through underdrains that irrigate beds with native plantings such as St. John's Wort.
The advanced stormwater management includes on-street planters that capture runoff, purify it and infiltrate it back into the ground. Two underground stormwater collection features are located at the ends of the system. They were specified to be larger than required to allow for further expansion.
In conjunction with the local planning department and the office of the mayor, Anderson+Bohlander created a new streetscape plot to help determine the course of future development.
Water that passes through permeable pavers saturates Silva cells filled with structural soil, which significantly increase the rootzone of the newly planted London Plane trees. In the background are some of the existing pin oaks that were able to be preserved.
Other enhancements to this portion of the Bloomington Certified Technology Park include elevated decks, terraced landscape walls, electronic charging stations, bike racks and a mixture of seating options.
The site once included railroad tracks, which were used as inspiration for the angles in the design. Large wooden benches were intended to represent rail cars carrying timber. To provide more separation between pedestrian and vehicular spaces, Anderson+Bohlander specified a combination of custom fabricated I-Beam bollards and planters installed with seasonally updated annuals by landscape contractor, Val Zygnowicz of Nature's Way, Inc. Pavers were added in key street areas for traffic calming and to make the space feel like a plaza. Decorative streetlight poles have fixtures mounted at a 10-degree upward angle. Attached banner arms from Valmont Structures accommodate signage along the street.
Public gathering areas were deemed a priority. The power infrastructure throughout the campus not only allows cellphones and laptops to plug in, but also facilitates electrical needs for a wide variety of events.
The Trades District is a bridge between Bloomington, Indiana's innovative past and promising future. Located on the historic campus of the Showers Brothers Furniture factory, the site was chosen to become a dynamic center of growth for the burgeoning local tech startup community. The backbone of the Trades District is a pedestrian oriented streetscape with public gathering space, art, integrated technology and inventive stormwater management.

The Trades District is a bridge between Bloomington, Indiana's innovative past and promising future. Located on the historic campus of the Showers Brothers Furniture factory, the site was chosen to become a dynamic center of growth for the burgeoning local tech startup community. The backbone of the Trades District is a pedestrian oriented streetscape with public gathering space, art, integrated technology and inventive stormwater management.

Dating back to the 1850s, the Showers Brothers factory was once one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world. It was known in its day as a hub for innovation, being one of the first businesses in the region to switch from steam to electricity and inventing the process of lamination. One of the company's slogans, "From the Tree to the Trade," became the inspiration for the district's new name.

The design team, led by Anderson+Bohlander, was selected for the streetscape and infrastructure project that would focus on an approximate 12-acre site of undeveloped land at the core of the Certified Tech Park where the historic dimension mill and kiln buildings had sat derelict for several decades. Prior to the kickoff of the infrastructure project, Anderson+Bohlander assisted the planning department and the mayor's office with the establishment of new right-of-way designations and new design guidelines for how future development could occur. The new streetscape layout establishes the framework for parcels that are reserved for tech and startup space.

Anderson+Bohlander recognized the importance of creating an identity for the campus. As a first step, Pivot Marketing was brought in to develop a brand for the area and the "Trades District" was coined. The logo, colors and brand elements were later used throughout the streetscape design to reinforce the district's physical brand and aid in wayfinding and orientation.

For inspiration, the design team studied the history of the area and the significance of the Showers Brothers factory at this location. An abandoned rail bed that once crossed through the site for the delivery of raw materials served as the motivation for angles used in the design, and large wooden benches were staggered throughout the central public space to mimic the old rail cars full of timber. The history of the site was further reinforced with the use of industrial materials such as exposed metal and wood accents for decking and custom wood seat wall caps. In addition to the history of the Shower's factory, locally quarried and crafted Indiana limestone walls, seating and steps are used in the design to celebrate the importance of the stone to the local history and economy. These subtle nods to the past reaffirm the historical significance of this site.

While the past is an important part of the Trades District, it is designed for a future focused on innovation and opportunity. The new vision for the Trades District is a walkable, pedestrian oriented environment where people can spill out of their offices into outdoor spaces and chance meetings are an everyday normal. Two new curb-less streets create a barrier-free pedestrian environment. Traditional street signage was deliberately removed from the project to reinforce the pedestrian priority and to encourage drivers to slow down and pay more attention to their surroundings.

Common areas were reserved all through the design for public gathering space, informal meetings, planned programs and events. The commitment to large and small public spaces are intended to encourage a collaborative environment where professionals can meet work and interact at various levels. The power infrastructure throughout the campus provides opportunities to plug in anything from cellphones and laptops to food trucks and event equipment. Three plazas serve as the larger hubs for activity. Gateway Plaza is at the southeast corner of the site and is designed to be on axis with Tenth Street, where a strategically located art piece will be visible to approaching visitors. Gateway Plaza features terraced limestone steps for informal seating, a gathering space and underground detention. B-Line Plaza is located at the southwest corner of the site and ties into the city's B-Line Bike and Pedestrian Trail network. B-Line Plaza features vegetated terraces of native prairie plants and also contains underground detention. Mill Plaza is in the heart of the district in front of the historic dimension mill building. This plaza provides a wide range of fixed and movable seating for outdoor gathering and workspace.

Innovative and sustainable stormwater management devices were used to improve water quality while decreasing the load on the city's storm sewer system. On-street infiltration planters capture runoff, where it is purified by native plantings and infiltrated back into the ground. Trench drains collect low-volume rain events at mid-block locations and divert them through underdrains below the adjacent planting beds to recharge the soils and promote further infiltration. Two large underground stormwater collection facilities are located at the ends of the system as a last stop for stormwater before exiting the site. They are oversized for the project requirements in an effort to offset the needs of future development and further encourage investment in the Trades District. Fields of permeable pavers span over street tree areas, allowing water to infiltrate directly to their roots. Under the permeable pavers, cells filled with structural soil greatly expand the rootzone, allowing for healthier trees and less area of runoff.

A final overlay of regionally native plantings creates a lush and green urban environment. Considerable effort was put into protecting and saving several large pin oaks adjacent to the new street. Clusters of trees in paver grates create small groves of shade under their canopy. Staggered bloom times in planters and infiltration basins allow for all-season color and interest, while hosting a variety of local pollinators.

Parallel to the construction of the streetscape and infrastructure project, the historic Shower Brother's dimension mill building was transformed into a dynamic new co-working space called "The Mill". This building, which was once used as the first step in processing trees into furniture, is now a place where entrepreneurs can take their first steps into developing new businesses. Anderson+Bohlander worked with the architect to seamlessly merge The Mill with the streetscape of the Trades District.

The finished streetscape has become a local favorite for gathering. It knits together pedestrian connectivity and provides a corridor that is active all times of the year. In the summer, food trucks take over the street and people are drawn in from across town. As it continues to attract new private investment, the streetscape will continue to be the backbone of the Trades District and a place where people connect to one another.


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