Broadview Presentation: Green Streets for Communities

On September 15th, I presented examples of green infrastructure, rain harvesting and complete streets to the Broadview Community Council. The Community is facing a major sewer line and drainage project in their neighborhood, including collection of runoff, new sewer lines and creating green streets with cascades and swales. This is a great opportunity for the Broadview Community. My talk focused on the transformation of infrastructure, through promoting context sensitive design, community identity and environmental awareness. I presented several examples of my recent projects that illustrate these concepts. This blog is an excerpt from my presentation.

Vicki Scuri Siteworks Projects

Both Arlington and Airway use light and concrete patterning

Arlington and Airway represent examples of context sensitive design, inspired by their sites and communities.

Both Arlington (Arlington, VA, above) and Airway (El Paso, TX, below) are inspired by their native landscapes, and they include rain harvesting, native plants and LED lighting to promote an experience of place. Airway includes 16 functional wind turbines that create a dramatic effect while producing energy. These turbines are tied into the City grid. The LED lighting is programmed to reflect El Paso’s seasons and holidays. At Arlington, the lighting suggests sky tones, transitioning through hues that are patterned to the length of a grill unit. Both projects create landmark gateways for their communities.

Sandcreek Cary

Sand Creek and Cary are both examples of green infrastructure.

Sand Creek (Sandpoint, ID, above) and Cary (Cary, NC, below) promote environmental awareness and stewardship. Sand Creek Byway is supported by MSE green walls. These green walls replace post and beam infrastructure, complementing the waterfront linear park and 3.5 acres of habitat. Cary is a good example of a green street. The massive infrastructure hardscape is mitigated by native plants, swales, and landforms, all which contribute to creating a healthy street and environmental awareness. Patterning derived from an historic brick, locally made, softens the walls and provides tactile relief for pedestrians. The roundabout, designed as a spoke, reinforces the presence of the nearby railroad bridge, which in the future will support mass transit.

D St Shoreline

D Street and Shoreline add greening and “identity” patterning to local infrastructure

D Street (above) and Shoreline (below) are two Northwest projects, located in Tacoma, WA and Shoreline, WA, respectively.  Both D Street and Shoreline promote community identity and sense of place.

D Street is my first project that introduces MSE green walls and MSE rock walls. This choice not only promoted a more environmentally friendly project, but it saved money, allowing for a variety of pedestrian amenities: tugboat shaped barriers with railroad rails, wavy walk, fishnet inspired fencing and sail lighting. This project is located along the Foss Waterway, crossing the Burlington Northern tracks, near the Tacoma Dome.

Shoreline, includes two pedestrian bridges, inspired by the Interurban Trolley and Trail. It includes swales replacing standard drainage ditches. Also, it features “rail to shore” identity patterning for MSE walls, stainless steel and glass fencing, and LED lighting to create a nighttime presence and amenity marking the entry to Shoreline.

Neighborhood Green Streets in Broadview

Typical residential streets in the Broadview neighborhood

Typical residential streets in the Broadview neighborhood

Broadview, is a neighborhood with tremendous potential. It is built in the 1950’s and feels spacious. Unfortunately, it is largely characterized by impervious streets, bare shoulders and drainage ditches that were typical for housing developments built during this era. Since the 1950’s we have learned a lot about how to mitigate runoff and soften residential streets.

Improved residential green streets in Broadview neighborhood

Improved residential green streets in Broadview neighborhood

In 2005, Broadway was selected for a green street study and several of its neighborhood streets were transformed by bioswales with cascades and native plantings. Above, is one of these streets. This is 107th Street, which was one of the first pilot projects for this study. It survives today, intact and serves as prototype for future developments. Even with this summer’s drought the landscape is sustainable and attractive. I like to compare native plantings with whole wheat bread. Like whole wheat bread, for many, it is an acquired taste that develops over time. Native plantings are much more sustainable than a manicured lawn. Whole wheat bread is much healthier than processed white bread.

New neighborhood green street improvements in Broadview

New neighborhood green street improvements in Broadview feature cascades to capture drainage

Swales with cascades would benefit from aesthetic enhancements treating the infrastructure as sculptural form. The sequential concrete forms of the weirs could be treated as a family of related shapes, that read in series. Also, they could be patterned to reflect the natural environment. Finally, the shaping of the swales would benefit from more organic shapes, less rectilinear. These design gestures would transform the generic infrastructure into attractive landscape features better fitting their sites. Each street receiving the greening treatment could reflect its street and local neigbors, promoting wayfinding and a sense of place.

Pervious surfaces in public and private applications

Pervious surfaces in public and private applications

Stepping-stones, grasscrete, gravel, and pervious concrete promote the absorption of runoff on site. Pervious surface treatments should be considered for sidewalks, driveways, and parking strips. Currently, many of the parking strips and driveways are concrete or paved, contributing to the drainage problems in the neighborhood. Many existing site conditions combine excessive hardscape with steeply sloped road surfaces. The combination of ground conditions and hardscape surfacing is contributing to the drainage problems in this neighborhood.

Private residences with sustainable gardens

Private residences with sustainable gardens

Drought resistant hardy and native plantings combined with principals of rain harvesting promote the absorption of water on site, creating sustainable healthy gardens that contribute to making the neighborhood more attractive. A handful of homes in the Broadview study area have transitioned their yards from thirsty lawns and shrubs to native plant gardens. Some feature passive rain harvesting, like the above gardens. They are attractive and they attract wildlife, birds and bees.

Rain catchment system for residential garden

Attractive rain collection cisterns for residential gardens are featured, below, right

Rain gardens without cisterns face water shortages during Seattle’s summer droughts. Seattle receives most of its 38-inches of annual rainfall in the winter and spring. Summers tend to be dry. This summer reflected this pattern and many local landscapes suffered from the drought. Considering the addition of a cistern to capture water off residential roofs could greatly improve conditions for native plant gardens, making them truly attractive and sustainable. Why waste water when it can be captured and reused to support a garden or landscape?

Complete Streets

Linden Ave accommodates all users

Linden Ave accommodates all users and demonstrates principals of complete streets

Pedestrians, bicycles, buses, and cars have increased mobility with complete streets. Each method of mobility is addressed and carefully considered, designating separate bicycle paths and separate buffered pedestrian paths from vehicular traffic. Safety for all is increased and handicap access is the rule, rather than the exception. Complete streets promote connection and engagement with the environment and the community, promoting a healthier lifestyle for people of all ages.

Linden Ave has been softened with greening

Linden Ave has been softened with greening

Swales and landscape buffers embrace pedestrian paths, mitigating excessive hardscape and runoff. Native plants provide an attract edge to sidewalks and streets, softening the impact of congestion and traffic. This neighborhood street connects to the Interurban Trail, a regional trail system. Recent developments include senior housing and a community garden.

Linden Ave has places for the public to gather

Linden Ave has places for the public to gather

Parks, gardens and play spaces promote opportunities for neighbors to know each other, to play together and to work together on community projects and goals creating a healthy, connected community. Linden Street, a complete street, sets a good example by revitalizing a suburban neighborhood, creating amenity for youth, ease for the elderly, and a community garden and park for local residents. Linden establishes a good model for future growth.

Similarly, the Broadvew drainage project presents a great opportunity for neighbors to talk with each other, set common community goals, and to work together to make Broadview a more livable, sustainable and attractive neighborhood for everyone involved. This project presents both public and private opportunities for correcting drainage issues and promoting sustainability. As a neighborhood, Broadview has many positive attributes. It boasts views of the Puget Sound and a strong connection to Carkeek Park, that could become even more prominent if 12th Avenue were to become a neighborhood green street. As a neighborhood, Broadview has wide streets that afford the transformation to green streets. This could become a “green” neighborhood with residential green streets, residential rain gardens and communal pocket parks and play areas, enlivened with public art to promote place and wayfinding. Through the process of renovating Broadview’s drainage and sewer systems, Broadview can be transformed to become much more than it is today. It can set precedents for future residential developments and renovations by following the guidelines of the Broadview – Bitter Lake – Haller Lake Neighborhood Plan Update. It can become a model of suburban sustainable development.

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