MAIN STREET, DELTA, COLORADO CONCEPTS FOR STREETSCAPE DESIGN
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MAIN STREET, DELTA, COLORADO STREETSCAPE DESIGN CONCEPTS
BY: Courtney Taylor
Landscape Architecture Degree Candidate College of Environmental Design University of Colorado at Denver Denver, Colorado 80202
FUNDED: State of Colorado
Department of Local Affairs Division of Impact Assistance
Rick Isom Manager of Downtown Delta Development Corporation
Jon Schler Director of Rural Community Development
Division of Impact Assistance Colorado Department of Local Affairs
Harriet Moyer Main Street Director
Center for Community Development and Design University of Colorado at Denver
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ANALYSIS/MAIN STREET/TOWN SCALE...................4
PROJECTED LAND USE PATTERNS.......................4
ANAL YSIS/CIRCU L AT 10N/D0WNT0WN.................6
DESIGN ELEMENTS............................... .16
DESIGN PROPOSALS/TWO BLOCK CASE STUDY.............20
Strip development, drab tired downtown shopping districts, insufficient and unorganized parking, unattractive alleys and rear entrances, inhospitable pedestrian environments, and abandoned historic buildings are all problems which plague many commercial districts in communities of the 1980's. Delta, Colorado is a classic example.
What makes an attractive and economically successful commercial district? One can only answer that it is a combination of many elements: marketing, location, appearance, history, as well as many other things. In this study I hope to analyze the physical problems of a deteriorating downtown and develop possible solutions through streetscape planning and design.
Delta, Colorado has been chosen as one of thirty towns in the U.S.A. to participate in the National Main Street Demonstration Project, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The goal is aimed at revitalizing downtown areas in communities of 50,000 or less. The program assists towns with grant money and educational materials. Yet it is primarily a grass roots effort.
Delta, with its energy impact, was chosen as one of 5 towns in Colorado to serve as an example of "everyman's working town." The newly formed Downtown Delta Development Corporation, a voluntary merchant organization with Rick Isom as its manager-coordinator, has defined its number one goal as "strengthening the economic viability and image of the central business district." They have established the following issues as objectives for the downtown: 1) promoting physical improvements that would attract shoppers, 2) making shopping more convenient and 3) providing better access to the rear of the stores and improved parking facilities. The following chart delineates the people and institutions involved in the revitalization of the downtown area.
In considering the revitalization of Main Street and my role, it was necessary to establish a methodology or process in order to arrive at possible soultions. Since Downing/Leach, a private design firm, was hired to develop design guidelines for signage and architectural renovation, I limited myself to the physical problems solved by streetscape planning and design. Delta was specifically interested in developing design solutions for a two block area facing Main Street from 3rd to 4th Streets, looking at landscaping, parking/alley alternatives and a possible use for a vacant drive-in bank.
Delta is located on the Western Slope of Colorado along U.S. Highway 50 between Grand Junction and Montrose. It is historically a service center for the surrounding agricultural area and the coal mining towns of the North Fork Valley. Spanning a one mile wide valley, Delta is nestled between three mesas; Grand Mesa to the north, California Mesa to the west and Garnet Mesa to the east.
Located at the confluence of the Uncompaghre and Gunnison Rivers, Delta rises 4,600 feet above sea level.
Because of a moderate climate, fertile soil, and plenty of water for irrigation (due to the rivers and the high water table), Delta County was once a productive center for sugar beets, fruit trees, cattle, sheep, and poultry. The land is now primarily used for growing barley, onions and wheat. The North Fork Valley of the Gunnison remains famous for its fruit trees and is now making news for its rich deposits of coal.
Prior to the turn of the century, Delta was part of the Ute Indian Reservation. In 1882 the town of Uncompaghre was incorporated and platted by General George A. Crawford. Later its name was changed to Delta because of its location upon the alluvial delta at the mouth of the Uncompaghre River.
Laid out for land speculation in the classic grid pattern, Delta was a typical frontier town in the Western U.S. Main Street, running north and south became the principal commercial district. The original Main Street was 75-100 feet wide and lined with a continuous facade of retail buildings. Midway through the blocks, alleys were provided for service and storage. Private housing and churches filled the remainder of the block. Adjacent to the sidewalk along Main Street was a ditch and a continuous row of poplars. With the advent of the automobile, the sidewalk was narrowed and the trees were removed.
Today, Main Street also serves as U.S. Highway 50, a major truck route. U.S. Highway 92 from Paonia and Hotchkiss intersects U.S. 50 at the northern edge of town. Scattered commercial businesses are developing at the edges of town, especially along Highway 92.
The entries into Delta lack definition and evoke a poor town image. A rundown riverfront park with poor drainage and a severe alkalai problem greets the visitor entering town from the north. The south offers a Pizza Hut and storage facilities for Coors' barley. A rejuvenated riverfront park could provide an excellent opportunity for a healthy town image.
For the most part, Main Street is lined with a mixture of private residences and automobile oriented businesses, consisting of motels, drive-in banks, and fast food stores. The original retail district in the heart of the downtown is slowly deteriorating. The linear form of Main Street promotes through traffic. Insufficient parking and an inhospitable pedestrian environment encourages new commercial development to seek viable locations elsewhere.
PROJECTED LAND USE PATTERNS
With pressure to develop Colorado's coal resources in the North Fork Valley, the population in Delta County is projected to grow by 10,000 by 1990. Delta, itself, has a projected annual growth rate of 4-8%. If the present growth pattern continues, new businesses will develop along the edges of town where parking is convenient. The possibility of a mall along Highway 92 is very real.
As of now, Delta loses 40% of its sales to Grand Junction and Montrose. Because of the loss of sales, as well as the projected growth, it is essential for Delta to strengthen the economic viability and image of its central business district. Beneath its 50's and 60's facade facelift, downtown Delta has a sense of authenticity that no new commercial development can rival. The assistance provided by the National Main Street Demonstration Project is an excellent opportunity for Delta to revitalize the heart of its town.
The downtown area has been defined as the eight blocks facing Main Street from 2nd to 6th Streets. Today, Main Street is four lanes wide with onstreet parking adjacent to the sidewalk. Intersections are areas of conflict between the pedes-train and the automobile. The principal users of Main Street fall into three categories: 1) truck and auto drivers using U.S. 50 to pass through town, 2) the motorized shopper and 3) the pedestrian.
The predominantly solid building facade creates a strong edge to Main Street reinforcing vehicular through movement. Delta, for the driver passing through, is anywhere U.S.A. There is very little that says"stop, get a bit to eat, and enjoy shopping in our friendly town."
Meanwhile, the motorized shopper is looking for available parking along crowded Main Street, a frustrating experience at best. Parking behind the stores is random and the rear entrances are uninviting.
The pedestrian must contend with narrow, linear sidewalks, noise and pollution from the trucks, monotonous concrete, confusing signage, and aluminum awnings. There are no areas for the pedestrian to linger and sit. It is no wonder that the average shopper does not want to spend any more time than necessary in the downtown area.
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ANALYSIS/ LAND USE/ DOWNTOWN
Street intersections and the vacant lots between the buildings provide the only open space and relief from the continuous building facades.
Because Delta is laid out in the grid system, a trip down Main Street is a series of distinct rhythms: an opening up at the street intersections and a closing in with the buildings. Views are predominantly to the north towards Grand Mesa or to the south towards the San Jose Mountains. Interesting historic buildings and points of interest are obliterated by confusing signage and aluminum siding.
As of now, there can be no rerouting of truck traffic, no interruption of traffic through the downtown area, and no funding for major capital construction. Given these constraints, the problem becomes defined; how does one create a viable downtown center using the existing form? Analysis of the circulation patterns, land use, and shoppers' needs culminated in the following solutions:
1) improve the parking/alley/rear entry relationships, 2) develop an attractive and safe pedestrian environment, 3) emphasize the street intersections in order to strengthen the rhythm of the existing form and 4) develop a downtown image.
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Main Street represents an important and unique segment of Delta's identity. Because of the wide streets and on-street parking, extensions of the curb at the corners of the blocks are possible.
Few parking areas will be lost since there is little parking allowed near the intersections now.
By widening the sidewalk at the interesections, more room is provided for the pedestrian and street furnishings.
Curb extensions promote pedestrian safety by shortening the curb to curb crosswalk distance and by providing the pedestrian with better visibility of the oncoming traffic. The extensions also break up the linearity of Main Street and add emphasis to the corners of the blocks, which in turn set off the corner buildings.
As distinctive features, the curb extensions will give a unique and special identity to the shopping area. They will reinforce the image of a revitalized downtown.
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PARKING/ALLEY/REAR ENTRY RELATIONSHIPS
One of the most important needs of the contemporary shopper is parking availability. As of now, parking along Main Street is difficult. This fact encourages new businesses to locate where parking is plentiful and convenient along the edges of town. In order to prevent this from happening, it is essential for the downtown merchants to encourage parking at the rear of their buildings. They need to organize the present random parking into lots, visible from the street and identified with good signage. These lots should be screened from the sidewalks with a defined edge of plant material, low wall, or fencing. Larger paved areas should be broken up with landscaping.
The present alleys and rear entrances are neglected and unattractive. Utility wires should be consolidated or buried. With attractive signage and proper lighting, rear entires to the stores could be made more attractive. This also offers the opportunity of double frontage for the merchant. Alleys are necessary for loading and unloading, storage, and trash disposal. These functions should be organized and screened when possible.
The existing vacant lots between the buildings provide possible pedestrian linkage from parking to Main Street. These dead spaces need to be enhanced before the shopper will make use of them. Once the motorized shopper realizes that parking is convenient and pleasant at the rear of the store, existing patterns will change.
As the downtown area grows more prosperous, more demand for parking will occur. It is recommended that land be acquired behind the Main Street stores and developed into small attractive parking lots. These lots could also be used by the merchants along Meeker and Palmer Streets.
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ALTERNATIVE USES FOR SPACES BETWEEN BUILDINGS
Presently, vacant spaces between the buildings along Main Street are typically used for random parking. An obvious solution is to fill in with new buildings and increase retail space in the downtown. Yet, other alternatives increasing the variety of experiences for the pedestrian are possible.
Mini parks and plazas can be created giving the shopper an opportunity to find refuge from the traffic of Main Street. It is important that seating be provided near Main Street where the user can be on the edge of the action. It has been found that most people will not sit where they cannot watch other people. These spaces can also double as pleasant pedestrian corridors from rear parking lots to Main Street.
Downtown Delta has no outdoor cafes or eating areas. The vacant lots between the buildings provide an opportunity for a shaded pleasant place on the edge of activity where people can gather and eat.
Another alternative is to create a mini shopping lane for the pedestrian. Doors could be punched into the sides of retail stores and attractively treated with signage and cloth canopies. This would provide a refreshing corridor away from the vehicular commotion of Main Street.
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Landscaping elements, especially street trees, provide an excellent opportunity to give structure and enhance the existing form of Main Street.
Street trees are excellent unifiers providing shade and scale for the pedestrian and a softening effect on the harsh environment of concrete, asphalt, and brick. They form a visual sense of closure and a psychological buffer from Main Street.
Different arrangements of street trees create patterns which affect the way Main Street is viewed by both the driver and the pedestrian.
The following three concepts have advantages as well as disadvantages. Delta has decided to plant street trees in a linear pattern which closely recalls Main Street at the turn of the century.
Sidewalk furnishings and elements should be selected for maintenance and appearance. Whatever palette is chosen, it should be emphasized that repetition of similar elements will unify and identify the downtown area.
Large trees should be used along the streets, while small ornamental trees are useful for accenting focal points, such as the entries to mini parks. Conifer trees should be avoided along the sidewalks of Main Street because of their horizontal mass.
Maintenance is of key importance to any kind of landscaping statement. Watering, pruning, and treatment against disease is imperative. Planters should be avoided where trees are concerned for they tend to restrict normal maturation. Tree grates are attractive and will prevent soil compaction around the tree.
Planters should be small as not to impede pedestrian traffic, yet heavy enough to prevent theft. Annuals provide color and interest, while evergreens provide much needed winter color. The best solution would be for the individual merchant to plant and maintain planters or window boxes in front of their stores. Another possible alternative is a Main Street maintenance crew or city park personnel that would be responsible for all plantings and care.
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Paving material with distinct patterns will enrich and unify a downtown area. The existing concrete sidewalks are monotonous and visually unappealing.
A change of paving materials at sidewalk extensions, alley crosswalks, and major pedestrian spaces off the street will accent the ground plane and add variety to the downtown. Because they repeat some of the elements in the existing architecture, brick pavers would be recommended.
Seating should be provided in areas where it does not impede circulation, but never far from the activity of Main Street. Sidewalk extensions and mini parks are excellent locations for this. The present sidewalks are too narrow for pleasant seating.
Wooden benches provide the most comfortable seat temperature all year around. They also add a nice softening element to a predominantly concrete environment. However, the major problem with wood is that it is less vandal resistant than concrete or metal.
To protect the pedestrian from the elements, principally the hot, glaring sun, it is recommended that the merchants replace their aluminum awnings with weather-treated canvas awnings. Aluminum awnings detract from the visual quality of Main Street. With proper care, canvas awnings will last ten to twenty years and act as a decorative and softening element within the streetscape. Architectural arcades and street trees are other alternatives which give protection as well as scale for the pedestrian.
Lighting is a necessary part of the streetscape. High, overhead lighting is available, but Main Street lacks pedestrian scaled lighting, used for "ambiance" and dressing up the streetscape. The choice of light fixtures should be decided upon by the Downtown Delta Development Corporation. Victorian style or gaslight fixtures are not advised as they are not part of Delta's past. Whatever the choice, be it a style similar to authentic Delta lighting at the turn of the century or something more contemporary, it should be something simple and unobtrusive.
DESIGN PROPOSALS/TWO BLOCK CASE STUDY
The case study was comprised of the two blocks facing Main Street from 3rd to 4th Streets. These blocks were chosen because they offered a chance to study some typical problems along Main Street: the use of a vacant lot next to City Hall, parking/ alley/rear entry relationships, and the streetscape in front of some of the more interesting commercial buildings.
Analyzing the building exteriors facing Main Street, one notices the significance of the Last Chance Building on the corner of 3rd and Main.
With its tower and arched windows, it distinguishes itself from all the other buildings, a real landmark for the downtown area. Unfortunately, it is now abandoned and in need of extensive repair.
Buildings are one and two stories high with the most interesting and massive buildings at the corners of the blocks. Consistent with the rest of the downtown, the building edge reinforces the linear movement of the automobile and the pedestrian. Aluminum, wood, and rock sidings have been applied to many of the storefronts, obscuring much of the original brickwork. Plant material is virtually non-existent.
Signage is confusing, detracting from the overall image of the downtown. Signs are large and outdated, each competing for the driver's attention. More consideration should be given to size, simplicity, and placement.
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MAIN STREET/SITE PLAN
It is recommended that the preliminary site plan for Main between 3rd and 4th Streets include sidewalk extensions at the corners of the blocks to accomplish three objectives: 1) enhance pedestrians' safety at crosswalks, 2) enlarge pedestrian space and the area for street furnishings, and 3) emphasize the ends of the blocks which will set off the corner buildings.
Street trees, used in a linear pattern, were placed adjacent to the "no parking" yellow curb. This arrangement prevents opening car doors from damaging the trees. The trees will cool the sidewalk and the buildings in the summer, as well as soften the architecture. By planting street trees down the collector streets, the commercial district is linked with the surrounding residential neighborhood. This pattern also recalls historical Delta.
Several alternatives for parking behind the buildings on the east side were studied. Existing now is a combination of a city parking lot, dentist's office, several residences and warehouses. The unused warehouses and a private residence will probably be demolished or relocated. This allows enough space for three one way lots with 45 parking providing 54 to 60 parking spaces (Alternative 1). This format is tight and not particularly pleasant for the remaining dentist and private residence.
Alternative 2 suggests the optimum design. All buildings would be razed or relocated to a more favorable site. The alley and service trucks are separated from the cars of the shoppers. Cars would enter from Meeker and find a 90 parking space. 90 parking provides enough space between stalls for two way traffic. A low planter wall separating parking from alley activities provides a pleasant transition for the shopper from the parking lot to the rear entry of the stores.
Alternative 3 looks at the possibility of closing off the alley from 3rd and 4th Streets. A proposal had been made to extend the furniture store across the alley to its sister building along 3rd Street; thus generating the need to analyze a "U" turn configuration. Cars and service trucks would enter from Meeker. This is probably the most impractical alternative as the turning radius needed for trucks is quite wide and valuable parking spaces would be lost. The confusion caused by cars and trucks using the same circulation would tend to be frustrating.
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PUBLIC & COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS
CITY HALL MINI PARK
The vacant lot next to City Hall is best used as a mini park and simple pedestrian corridor linking rear parking with Main Street. It was once a drive-in bank facility, but since City Hall has replaced the bank, it is now used for random parking.
In the winter the space is cold and dark, while during the summer months it is unbearably hot. The overhead structure at the Main Street entry is too high to provide a comfortable scale for the pedes-train. Because it would prove too costly to remove, the drive-in facility must remain. The brick buildings on either side of the space are lined with wooden siding one story tall reinforcing the linear feeling of the space.
Recommendations are as follows:
- extend the sidewalk in front of the entrance in order to pull the streetscape into the park
- provide seating in form of benches and seating walls at the Main Street entry which will allow the pedestrian to remain on the edge of the activity
- change the paving material, identifying a unique pedestrian space
- remove the overhead structure, as it does not relate to the pedestrian
- remove most of the wooden siding, recycle and use as a screen for the drive-in facility and fire escape
- create a trellis/seating area where the pedestrian can sit and watch the activity of the street
plant trees at the entrance for shade and to lessen the wind tunnel effect
plant ornamental trees on the alley side to accent the entry from the parking lot
plant climbing vines along brick walls -English or Boston Ivy for the north side and Engleman Ivy for the trellis and south side
pedestrian scale lighting needed for evening use
paint cinderblock alley wall of church an attractive neutral color a darker color will psychologically shorten the length of the mini park
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The proposed designs and recommendations are concepts which the people of Delta might consider. They attempt to introduce possible ideas which would improve Delta's commercial area by making it a more hospitable place for pedestrians and a more convenient place to shop.
Making the downtown area a viable commercial district will demand a look at marketing techniques, facade rehabilitation, as well as street-scape improvements. This will take a committed effort on the part of the merchants, the city council and the people of Delta.
Abram, Nowksi, and McLaughlin, On Building Downtown, Design Guidelines for the Core Area. General Urban Systems Corp., Second Edition, 1974.
Alexander, Christopher, A Pattern Language. Oxford Press, New York, 1977]
Barber and Yergensen, Design Plan for Downtown Manitou Springs, Colorado. 1978.
Barber and Yergensen, Rehabilitation Guidelines for Commercial Buildings, Florence, Colorado.
Caniglia, Ford, and Levek, Pagosa Springs, Community Design Study. 1979.
Everett-Zeigil, Sasaki Associates, Communication Arts Inc., Private Development Guidelines for Architecture and Signs, Downtown Boulder.
Hartmann, Robert R., Design for the Business District. Prepared for the Racine Urban Aesthetics Inc. 1979.
Lynch, Kevin and Southworth, Michael, Designing and Managing the Strip, Working Paper No. 29. Joint Center for Urban Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. 1974.
Newman, Oscar, Defensible Space, Crime Prevention Through Urban Design. Collier Books, New York. 1972.
State Historical Society of Colorado, Good Neighbors, Building Next to History, Design Guidelines Handbook. 1980.
Whyte, William H., The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.C. 1980.