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09-08-21 | Feature

Lighting, Landscape, and Paving Bring Life to Streetscape Project

Kyle Baugh, PLA, Kimley-Horn

At the City of Greer in South Carolina, the downtown area, Greer Station, was in need of a renovated look. Landscape architecture firm Kimley-Horn had previously designed the community master plan for Greer and was hired to improve the seven streets that made up the downtown area with new designs for lighting, landscape, streetscapes and paving.
With the goal of creating something soft and complementary in appearance to the built historic context of Greer Station while also providing a canvas for art, events, and the decorative lighting, the team chose clay brick pavers early on in the project. Within the site there are five distinct areas of pavers: the retail and pedestrian zone along the buildings, the parking zone, the vehicular realm, the pedestrian crossings, and the intersections. The pavers needed to all complement each other and work together while still representing and making clear visual distinctions in the hardscape for those using the street either walking, biking, or driving.
A Greer Station insignia was added at the main focal point connecting the streets of the downtown area. It was poured in place using a mirror aggregate colored concrete with recessed brass lettering.
Being one of the key aspects to their scope of work, the Landscape Architects designed the lighting throughout the project with fixtures that represented Greer's downtown history of being a railroad and millcommunity as they mimic the gas lanterns used during that era.
The clay brick pavers used throughout this project connect the paving to the surrounding historic buildings. The lighting fixtures were designed to appear like the gas lanterns that were used in this area during the early 20th century. Image courtesy of Landscape Forms; photography captured by Kris Decker
The bollards complement the rustic nature of all furnishing and elements chosen for the street. The team wanted to use authentic materials that reflected Greer's railroading background. The rough and ready bollards by STREETLIFE feature a wooden bottom and steel extending form the top to provide the appearance of a wooden railroad while also complementing the steel truss elements at the intersections. Kimley-Horn designed the street signs with "pops of color" while providing a different more distinct pedestrian focused wayfinding opportunity.
The over 100-year-old granite curbs that once lined Trade Street, the main retail area, were repurposed and used as the edge for the planters along Poinsette at the entrance of Trade Street. Within the planters we installed 6" freeman maples to anchor the street and mark its entrance.

Upon completion of the award-winning community master plan for the City of Greer in South Carolina and the broader region, the city engaged landscape architecture firm Kimley-Horn once more to further advance the design of the historic downtown focus area, Greer Station. The downtown streetscape design was comprised of seven total downtown streets and encompassed 10 city, rail-adjacent, and historic city blocks, including the extensive overhaul of Greer Station's main retail corridor, Trade Street. Kimley-Horn's scope of work included design for the streetscape, landscape, structural, and electrical elements. In addition to the design components, Kimley-Horn led a community engagement strategy that welcomed the downtown businesses into the visioning process, allowing them to help shape a plan for the revitalized project area. Kimley-Horn's visioning process with the city and Greer Station merchants focused on addressing concerns and identifying opportunities that ultimately would provide a more vibrant urban core. The key focus of the visioning process was to enhance the pedestrian experience. The downtown had become overly car centric and was even found to have two traffic signals along Trade Street that did not carry enough traffic to warrant their existence. The conditions only accentuated the focus on the automobile, providing no additional safety to the pedestrians. The commercial downtown district was established in 1873 as a flag station along the Atlanta Charlotte Airline Railroad and was a thriving mill community in the early 20th century but had fallen into disrepair in recent years. The heartbeat of the urban core needed new life. The need to focus on the pedestrian vision for Trade Street became clear early on. A pedestrian-first and active environment would create synergy to the downtown core and act as a catalyst for the city's future growth.

Kyle Baugh, PLA, ASLA, led all facets of the design, from visioning, through construction, and ultimately to the formal ribbon cutting ceremony in July 2020. Kyle and his team collaborated with local civil engineering firm CoTransCo to help ensure the design was carried through holistically and in partnership with the engineering components, given the extensive infrastructure changes throughout the downtown as a part of the overall revitalization. The design included enhanced wayfinding, custom lighting, structural cell and expanded soil volume accommodations, street trees and raised planters, overhead canopy lighting, hardscape and landscape enhancements, and decorative custom intersection treatments. From the development of the construction documents to the completion of the streetscape project, Kimley-Horn, CoTransCo, and Sossamon Construction worked hand-in-hand with the City of Greer to establish a strong working relationship and deliver an incredibly complex streetscape project on time and within budget. The team worked through a number of construction-related obstacles to provide a state-of-the-art downtown that will serve as the heartbeat of Greer Station for the next 100 years.

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Within the context of the historic downtown environment in which the team was designing, the team was able to re-establish Historic Greer Station's 100-year-old main street while modernizing the streets and bringing immediate activation and vibrancy back to the commercial core of Greer Station, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Trade Street "woonerf" was designed as a multimodal living street, giving the city the ability to easily close the street for events throughout the year. The flush and shared street accommodates an all-inclusive and more accessible environment without the need for ramps, while the narrow lanes, on-street parking, and other decorative streetscape enhancements and design techniques keep traffic calm and speeds low.

"It is about delegating use zones. When you narrow lanes and create a flush environment you have to focus on not just calming the traffic and the speed of vehicles but also design and integrating elements that separate the pedestrian from the vehicular realm, especially when the environment you are creating will be new to all users, both residents and visitors. The decorative trench drains on both sides of the street, as well as the different color blend of pavers for each use zone visually, delineates the pedestrian and vehicular realms and the site furnishings, raised planters and street trees including the wood/steel bollards provide the protection for the pedestrian when open for all users. Additionally, as a part of the pedestrian friendly setting open pillars anchor the intersections, the lighted motion activated crosswalks, and the overhead canopy lighting that provide additional cues to drivers that they are entering a zone that will need additional driving considerations. It adds a layer of caution for drivers both day and night. The sum of all elements that are a part of the design create the environment you need to create a safe walkable urban core. The key here is that the design focused on creating a place prioritizing pedestrians that can be driven on, not just a walkway, thus making it somewhat uncomfortable to drive down and that's a good thing," explained, Kyle Baugh, PLA, Kimley-Horn.

Combined, these elements create a pedestrian-first atmosphere under a brilliant, string-lit canopy. The entire street is built on a cored structural concrete foundation. The pedestrian space along the edges of the vehicular realm is built using a concrete foundation for the pavers over a proprietary structural Silva Cell system. The combination of the subsurface design allowed more flexibility around existing and proposed utilities while providing the trees optimal room for growth. The trees are contained in decorative tree grates along the edge to further maximize the pedestrian space throughout. Materials and color palettes were chosen based on their complementary appearance with the historic downtown brick buildings. Notable furnishings, such as the internally lit intersection pillars and wood/steel bollards, represent the authentic materials of Greer's past along the Atlanta Charlotte Airline Railroad. One of the more notable design details was a collaboration between Kimley-Horn and the site furnishing vendor. Together, the firms produced a light fixture that represents Greer's former gas lantern-lined streetscape. These light fixtures have an extension within the lighting design that attaches to a catenary cable system that provides a string-lit canopy across the entirety of Trade Street. The string lights provide a roof at night and have already garnered thousands of photo opportunities across social media. They've also served as a backdrop for downtown events and weddings since the grand opening.

Success for a project like this comes in many forms. For Greer, it came in the form of a more activated, safer, and pedestrian-focused downtown that, upon opening in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic, provided local businesses a canvas to host outdoor seating, dining, and events without having to shut down. In addition, to date, the city has seen more than $120 million reinvested on the heels of this $12 million capital project. One thing was clear from the beginning, Kimley-Horn was designing much more than streets. The team designed a place.

Filed Under: KIMLEY-HORN, STREETSCAPE, GREER, LASN
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