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<br />NORTHAMPTON STREETSCAPE IMPROVEMENT PLAN MAIN STREET AND PLEASANT STREET PREPARED BY: DENIG DESIGN ASSOCIATES INC. April 2005 <br />TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION Downtown Northampton Study Objectives Study Area EXISTING CONDITIONS Inventory & Analysis Summary Drawings Evaluation Criteria Positive Features Problem <br />Areas RECOMMENDATIONS Proposals Stop Gap Measures Basic Improvements Comprehensive Improvements Value Added Options Summary Drawings Appendices Bicycle Lanes Crosswalks Furnishing Alternatives <br />Lighting Planting Downtown Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan <br />Downtown Northampton Downtown Northampton, Massachusetts is a special place. Its diverse array of commercial, institutional, professional, residential and mixed use buildings draws City <br />residents and visitors into the downtown and provides a distinctive backdrop for an equally diverse array of street-side activities: shopping, working, socializing, people-watching, <br />eating, pan-handling, music-making and protesting, to name some of the most common sightings. Green spaces along the way—Pulaski Park and institutional frontages, among others, comprise <br />a complementary kind of spatial diversity and public amenity. Beyond downtown, off-site views toward the Holyoke Range and Smith College’s Grecourt Gate provide, perhaps only unconsciously <br />for many, a satisfying sense of orientation within a particular geographic place. Despite these extraordinary positive features and its notable economic success, there is trouble in <br />downtown Paradise City. Physical conditions have deteriorated since the sidewalks were reconstructed and furnished in 1981. New furnishings and details have been added over time, undermining <br />design unity and sometimes cluttering constricted areas. Study Objectives Aiming for improved function and enhanced beauty and, ultimately, toward a renewed “renaissance” of Northampton’s <br />downtown, the scope of this study is limited to an existing conditions assessment and conceptual design. The design objectives are: INTRODUCTION Pedestrian friendliness (safety, comfort, <br />and convenience); Business supportiveness; and Distinction (image and identity). Urban and landscape design springs from the goals and objectives of the project and the problems and <br />opportunities that the site presents. The next section features the site—Northampton’s downtown streetscape—as it exists today. Study Area The City of Northampton Planning Department <br />has commissioned this study to address the deteriorating quality of downtown Northampton’s streetscape. The study area comprises: Main Street between the Academy of Music and the railroad <br />bridge; Pleasant Street to Service Center Rd. ••• •• Downtown Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan <br />Drawings The ensuing plan drawings comprise the inventory and analysis of the streetscape elements within the study area, which has been divided into seven segments: three for Main Street <br />from east to west and four for Pleasant Street from north to south. Summary Highlights of the inventory and analysis are described below. north side between Center and King Streets. <br />Attached commercial buildings abut sidewalks all along the south side and along the western half of the north side. Three large institutional buildings -First Churches, the former Fleet <br />Bank Building and the Hampshire County Courthouse – are the exceptions, angled and set back from the sidewalk between Center Street and King Street. Here, where there was once a Town <br />Common, the roadway swells to 116’, accommodating angled parking on both sides and two or three travel lanes each way. The two crosswalks are spaced 250’ and 160’ apart; the one between <br />Center and King Street is 360’ apart. Main Street West The western segment of Main Street has 13’ 13’ sidewalks on the north side (includes the brick border) abutted directly by commercial <br />buildings. The portion abutting Edwards Church is the exception. This northern side has a favorable microclimate: sunny with protection from northern winds. Sidewalks on the south side <br />are typically 10’ wide, without the brick border, 13’ typical elsewhere. Four institutional buildings set back from the sidewalk and Pulaski Park border this side. The roadway in this <br />segment averages 65’, accommodating parallel parking on both sides and two travel lanes each way. Cross streets in this segment are Masonic Street and Crafts Avenue. Crafts Avenue intersects <br />Main at an angle. Two alleyways between City Hall and Memorial Hall intersect Main at parallel angles. Crackerbarrel Alley on the other side is bordered with brick, expressing continuity <br />with sidewalk pavement. Three crosswalks are spaced an average of 250 ‘apart. INVENTORY & ANALYSIS Main Street East The sidewalks along Main Street’s eastern segment are by and large <br />13’ wide on both sides. The angled building line on the south side, provides a progressively wider sidewalk toward Pleasant Street. With the exception of two standalone buildings near <br />the King Street intersection – Silverscape Jewelers and Smith Charities – the buildings are attached commercial structures. The roadway is approximately 79’ wide, accommodating parallel <br />parking on both sides and two or more travel lanes each way. The roadway narrows to 53’ under the bridge, wide enough for parallel parking on both sides and one or more travel lanes <br />each way. The two crosswalks are 95’ and 270’ apart. Main Street Center The sidewalks along Main Street’s central segment are typically a total of 16-17’ wide, including the standard <br />design feature of a 4’ wide brick border. The sidewalks narrow to 12’ on the south side near Crafts Avenue and on the Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions Pleasant Street North The Pleasant Street sidewalk on the western side down to Hampton Avenue averages 11.5’ width. The sidewalk <br />on the eastern side and those further from downtown on both sides are considerably narrower, averaging approximately 7’. Narrowness not withstanding, these sidewalk segments have standard <br />brick borders. Five “bump-outs” near Armory Street and Hampton Avenue provide additional width and room for furnishings and a distinctive Pleasant Street detail of granite bollards. <br />The sidewalk is bordered directly, in most cases, by both free-standing and attached commercial buildings. Several building setbacks fronting the Chamber and auto store across the Street, <br />an open space south of Hampton Court and alleyways between buildings provide breaks in the wall enclosure. Starting at 65’ at the Main Street intersection, the roadway gradually narrows <br />to 40’, accommodating parallel parking on both sides and one travel lane each way. Crosswalks are spaced 230’, 255’ and 330’ apart. Pleasant Street Center Sidewalks within this segment <br />are 7’ wide, with the exception of widths up to 13’ between Florida Avenue and Michelman Street. The brick border detail is deleted just north of the Depot/Parking lot entry. Commercial <br />buildings and several multi-level apartment dwellings line this segment with varying setbacks and interstitial spaces. The William Nagle Walkway terminates on the west side, opposite <br />the Depot/Parking lot entry. The roadway is consistently 40’ in this segment, accommodating parallel parking on both sides and one travel lane each way. Crosswalks are spaced 350’ and <br />290’ respectively. Pleasant Street South A & B Sidewalks on the west side of this segment are 3.5’ with a 3.5’ turf strip to the back of street-side curb. The eastern side has the same <br />sidewalkturf strip combination, only slightly wider at 8’ total. The mix of commercial, professional and residential buildings fronting this segment are spaced at varying intervals and <br />oriented less consistently toward the street. The roadway widths are reduced to 33’ within this segment, accommodating two or three travel lanes without parking. There are no crosswalks. <br />INVENTORY & ANALYSIS <br />Criteria Urban designers’ libraries are full of books citing streetscape examples, criteria and standards. The limited scope of this study hardly warrants a state of the art review or <br />bibliography. Here, instead, are gleanings from two particularly salient resources. Consumer Friendliness In “Ten Tips for Designing a Consumer Friendly Downtown” (Planning, American <br />Planning Association, April 2003), Mark Brodeur cites a clear and concise list; his recommendations include the following: 1. Don’t split the street in two. 2. Light the way. 3. Keep <br />sidewalks basic, smooth and clean. 4. Design for three distinct sidewalk zones. 5. Retain or increase on-street parking. 6. Pick the “perfect street tree” (no such thing). 7. Think of <br />public art in a different way. 8. Pump more cars into downtown. 9. Set a “22 mph” speed limit (i.e. slow and memorable). 10. Establish an awesome way-finding (ie. signage and mapping, <br />etc.) program. Great Street Design In the final section of his book (Great Streets, MIT Press, Cambridge Cambridge and London, 1993), Allan B. Jacobs summarizes what he concludes are <br />qualities of great streets. Requirements for greatness are: EVALUATION 1. Places for people to walk with some leisure. 2. Physical comfort: shelter from extremities of wind and sun. <br />3. Definition: height to horizontal dimension ratio at least 1:2. 4. Qualities that engage the eye: visual complexity within a holistic context. 5. Complementarity: non-clashing styles <br />and heights with limited stand-outs. 6. Transparency: invitations to view beyond and behind. 7. Quality of materials, workmanship and design. 8. Maintenance: Lack of design an improvement <br />over neglected design Desirable Qualities are: 9. Deciduous trees closely spaced to form a line 10. Distinct beginnings and endpoints. 11. Many buildings with a diversity of uses, destinations <br />and users. 12. Special design features: -Streetlights most significant -Paving less significant and costly -Frosting: seating, fountains, sculpture, awnings, signage, etc. 13. Places: <br />plazas and parks at breaks, especially for long narrow streets. 14. Accessibility: here to there, entrances to and from the street; not just ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. <br />15. Density: Streets cry out for people -Minimum of 15 dwelling units per acre -Maximum of 50 du/acre (otherwise buildings are over 4 stories and streets widen). Northampton Streetscape <br />Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />EVALUATION 16. Diversity of uses: creates activity and liveliness of place. 17. Length: no set standards, but still need diversity of interest. 18. Slope: Noticeable grade changes without <br />steepness increase views and drama. 19. Parking: Great streets do not have an abundance of either on or off-street parking. 20. Contrast: Although design of the street itself is paramount, <br />contrast helps to set a street apart. Positive Features Judging from long-term observations and guided by the aforementioned criteria, Northampton’s downtown has a significant array <br />of positive features, a selection of which is highlighted below. Diverse Usage Its full range of commercial, institutional, professional and residential uses draws people downtown both <br />day and evening and engenders a vital street life. Distinctive Architecture Historic and other significant buildings downtown serve as high quality streetscape backdrops and focal points. <br />The predominance of attached buildings and uniform set-backs is a significant unifying factor. The more occasional instances of free-standing buildings provide a welcome degree of variety <br />and contrast. The gradual build-up of height and density toward the center is another positive urban design feature. A primary example of Northampton’s distinctive architecture is City <br />Hall, designed by William Fenno Pratt in 1850. Pedestrian Orientation Enforcement of pedestrian priority in crosswalks enhances the ease and frequency of crossing from one side of the <br />street to the other, a crucial contributing factor for vitality. Pleasant Street’s relative narrowness adds to crossing convenience. An interesting architectural detail from the Old <br />Post Office on Pleasant St. Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />EVALUATION Local color is provided by banners and “designer” periodical stands. Cafes along Main Street animate the downtown. Sidewalk Design The sidewalks themselves have a clearly <br />delineated transition zone for trees, furnishings, light posts, signs and other elements. Its materials are appropriate and durable: granite curbs, granite blocks, brick pavers and concrete. <br />Furnishings are standardized, by and large. Access Downtown Northampton is easily approached from I-91 via Pleasant Street. Many side roads feed into Main and Pleasant Streets. Few topographic <br />barriers impede ADA compliance. Special Places An array of parks, vest pocket green spaces, greenways and setbacks provide complementary open/green spaces. Transparency and Views Off-site <br />views to the Holyoke Range, Smith College Grecourt Gates and neighboring steeples convey a sense of place. Main Street’s curving alignment provides dynamic shifts of sight lines. Shorter <br />range glimpses down side streets, alley ways and within buildings provide additional variety and interest. Attractions and Public Art Numerous cafes in downtown Northampton are positive <br />attractions. Several murals and other art works, such as the kiosk ensemble near First Churches, “designer” newspaper stands and 350th Anniversary banners, contribute to local color <br />and eye-catching focal points. Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />EVALUATION Problem Areas Main Street and Pleasant Street evidence four problem areas, which detract from the function, attractiveness and – ultimately -the long-term vitality of downtown <br />Northampton. These problems encompass issues of: maintenance; access, circulation & parking; and details. Maintenance Issues: Lack of maintenance is, arguably, the most significant problem <br />of Northampton’s downtown streetscape. Such lack conveys a message of not caring and permission for bad social behavior. It is manifested in the forms of litter, deterioration, vandalism, <br />tree mortality and weed growth. When repairs are made, moreover, they are often done with inferior materials and details. Litter and deterioration accelerated by vandalism have marred <br />Northampton’s streetscape. Here, at the entry to the Nagle Walk, is a prime example. Litter along Main Street seems to be less evident than it was months ago when Honor Court personnel <br />no longer cleaned the streets and sidewalks. It remains a problem along much of Pleasant Street, nonetheless, particularly near the entry to the William Nagle walkway. The potential <br />for more littering increases, in any event, whenever shabby conditions prevail. The streetscape installation of the 1980s is deteriorating. Granite blocks in most tree pits are displaced, <br />replaced or removed. Brick pavement edges are fraying. Whole sections of concrete sidewalks are missing in locations along Pleasant Street. Many concrete score joints are heaving throughout <br />the downtown. Sections of curbing and edging (along Millbank Place) are nearly gone. Many parking meters are bent or rusted. Such deterioration is a significant problem, which presents <br />liabilities to the City and casts a pall of shabbiness over the entire downtown enterprise. Northampton’s sidewalks are showing their age with frayed pavers and missing tree well cobbles. <br />Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />EVALUATION Graffiti in alleyways and elsewhere sends a particularly bad message, decreasing property values and increasing fear of crime. Vandalism has also claimed numerous benches <br />throughout downtown. A missing or stolen stop sign at the Pearl and Pleasant Street intersection has reportedly caused several automobile accidents. Curbs and edges are prone to deterioration, <br />too. Graffiti and other forms of vandalism send a particularly bad message. Tree mortality is mounting in light of less-thanideal planting conditions, compaction and lack of maintenance. <br />Weed growth is everywhere, deteriorated and damaged conditions prevail, around parking meters, in sidewalk cracks and most notably, at the base of trees. Weed growth is everywhere, deteriorated <br />and damaged conditions prevail. Access, Circulation & Parking Issues Pedestrian/Vehicle Interface: The 2003 report of the Mayor’s Task Force for Safer Streets cites five problems in <br />the downtown: excessive crossing distances; poor crosswalk visibility; jaywalking; traffic confusion; and vehicular dominance. This assessment of existing conditions confirms these findings, <br />by and large. Traffic confusion is spurred by lack of travel lane clarity and consistency. On Central Main Street for example, a portion of the roadway accommodates angled parking and <br />either 5 very small (less than 10’) travel lanes or 4 very large (over 14’) travel lanes.The issue of “vehicular dominance”, however, is debatable. If such term really means pedestrian <br />friendliness could be improved downtown, the issue is warranted. Pedestrian friendliness could and should be improved, as attested by this study. If the term implies the desirability <br />of less traffic and fewer parking spaces, however, it is not. Wellregulated traffic and ample parking are, in fact, the lifeblood of a vibrant downtown. The more bona fide issues are <br />to slow traffic and to address the aforementioned problems of crossing distances, crosswalks, jaywalking and traffic confusion. Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Cond <br />itionsConstrictions: Sidewalk widths vary from block to block. Although they appear to be adequate, they are by no means generously scaled everywhere or capable of handling peak demands. <br />Some blocks are too narrow to have the paver transition strip: Between the Academy and City Hall; Fronting the Hampshire County Courthouse; and Along much of Pleasant Street. Such lack <br />of paver strip is not a major design issue. More significant are the places where crowding or constriction of movement often occurs due to frequent peak demands or special sidewalk conditions: <br />In front of Thornes Market with its bus stop and high level of foot traffic; In front of the Hampshire County Courthouse, the site of a bus stop as well as occasional political protests; <br />In front of City Hall; In front of Pulaski Park, with its crowded bus stop, benches and numerous news stands; In front of the Chocolate Emporium, where steps dissect the sidewalk; At <br />the Strong Avenue/Main Street corner, where a ramp and set of steps split the sidewalk; sidewalk; and In front of Sylvester’s and other segments along Pleasant Street, where 3.5’ wide <br />sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk together or pass each other. These bottlenecks are noticeably worse during warm weather or events such as sidewalk sale days, Farmers’ <br />Market days, protests and •• ••••• •••EVALUATION the like. Though not as universal and dire as the aforementioned maintenance issues, such constrictions warrant amelioration, as they <br />can create feelings of discomfort or, worse, intimidation. Obstructions: Obstructions along the sidewalks also play a part in crowding and constriction of movement. The proliferation <br />of newspaper stands, brochure dispensers, sidewalk signboards and other features throughout downtown constricts movement from cars to the sidewalk. Awning poles and a display case on <br />top of more typical features at Thornes Market entry play a part in the restriction of an easy flow of movement. The entry to Pulaski Park is confounded by fencing, furnishings and plantings. <br />More problematic, however, in this case, is the way eye-level plantings and lowbranched trees obstruct views toward the Park and Memorial Hall, to the degree of near invisibility. More <br />than aesthetics, visual obstructions like these impede surveillance and threaten a sense of public safety. Pleasant Street does not have a clutter problem to the degree that Main Street <br />does. Proliferating periodical stands clutter Northampton’s streetscape physically and visually. Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />EVALUATION Views to Pulaski Park and Memorial Hall are obstructed by vegetation. Bicycles: Another vehicular issue warrants notice here: the lack of bicycle lanes within the downtown. <br />Such lack is especially noticeable along Main Street, which links Elm Street (with its bicycle lanes) and the Northampton-Amherst rail trail. Details: Introductions and Inconsistencies: <br />New, inconsistent details and an array of furnishings have been introduced over the years. Examples abound: the bollard and chain tree protection device: wire plant bed edgings; flowerpots; <br />trash receptacles; bicycle racks; and newspaper/magazine stands. While many of these introductions are functional and possibly also attractive by themselves, taken together, they have <br />become visual pollutants. The newspaper/magazine stands, in particular, have proliferated to an inordinate degree; clusters of them on every block prevent easy passage from cars to the <br />sidewalk. Increasing numbers of hand-painted sandwich board signs, charming and colorful as they may be, may also fall into this category. Pleasant Street has its share of inconsistencies, <br />too, where crosswalks adhere to no standard and sidewalk materials vary. Shortages: Throughout downtown, there is a shortage of seating, way-finding signage, community posting locations <br />and pedestrian-scaled light posts. For the lack of adequate seating, door stoops and steps are crowded, even at the bus stop on the corner of Main and Pleasant. For the lack of wayfinding <br />signage, both greenway entries are ignored and vandalized. For the lack of community posting locations, City light posts are pasted over with flyers. A whole dimension of pedestrian <br />friendliness is absent, given the lack of pedestrian-scale lighting, arguably one of the most significant successful streetscape features. Examples of inconsistent tree wells that are <br />stylistically inappropriate; either too industrial or too residential. Northampton’s downtown does not have enough benches. Private stoops are often the only option. Northampton Streetscape <br />Improvement Plan Existing Conditions <br />PROPOSALS Here, in response to the aforementioned problems, opportunities and examples, is an array of proposals for the City’s consideration and eventual implementation. Grouped in <br />order of priority, they are: Stop Gap Measures; Basic Improvements; Comprehensive Improvements; and Value Added Options. Stop Gap Measures Stop gap measures are highly recommended—if <br />not essential—for immediate action. Such measures include three public sector components and one private sector option: maintenance; clean-up; safety measures; and sprucing up. Maintenance <br />Maintenance in this case is about saving life and limb. Pavement areas that have become trip hazards should be repaired, matching the original materials and details as much as possible. <br />Trees that have survived minimal tree wells and deferred maintenance beyond expectations should be, at the very least: freed from girdling grates along Hampden Street; pruned of dead <br />branches and root suckers; limbed up to a minimum of 8’; and fertilized. Clean-Up Graffiti and litter throughout downtown should be removed as soon as it occurs. The persistence of either <br />of these is an incentive to anti-social •••• behavior. Trash receptacles should be emptied prior to overflowing. Sandwich boards and periodical stands Paring down the proliferation of <br />sandwich boards and periodical stands should be done just as diligently. For starters, the City might consider a stop-gap ordinance, which establishes eligibility and standards. Eligibility <br />for sandwich boards could be limited to upper floor enterprises on the street where the boards are located. Standards might suggest maximum quantities and sizes, as well as location <br />recommendations: sandwich boards in pairs located nearest the enterprises; and periodical stands in clusters limited to one designated location per block. City decision-makers might <br />well consider issuing renewable permits for a fee in exchange for advertising privileges in public spaces. Revenues could conceivably generate maintenance funds. Alternatives to the <br />aforementioned aforementioned regulatory approach are featured below, among comprehensive improvements. Removals Un-repairable benches should be removed rather than left to be eyesores. <br />Odd, loose cobbles in tree pits should also be removed to create an intended effect. One row of cobbles framing a tree pit is preferable to multiple, uneven rows. Safety Measures Some <br />safety measures, in response to the Mayor’s Task Force for Safer Streets and confirmed by the findings of this study, should Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Recommendations <br />Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Recommendations PROPOSALS Spruce-Ups Private owners and proprietors can contribute to the function and beauty of downtown by continuing what <br />many are already doing: keeping their sidewalk frontages clean and adding touches of color with plantings. The caveat here is that such plantings should best be done in a concerted manner, <br />as some already are. For the sake of consistency in the short-term, tree well plantings should only be bordered with raised granite cobbles. Pots, if they be used at all, should match <br />the existing barrel-style standard. Window boxes suited to the building’s architecture are a preferable alternative to pots as they are less obstructive to pedestrian flow. The Chamber <br />of Commerce plantings have been a success due to their attractive pots, stylistic consistency and non-obstructing location in traffic islands. Basic Improvements It has been over twenty <br />years since the existing sidewalk system in downtown Northampton was installed. It has endured remarkably well. It is time, nonetheless, to consider a substantially new installation, <br />as stop-gap measures eventually reap diminished returns. The recommendation for moving beyond stop-gap measures to basic improvements is for complete reconstruction of City sidewalks <br />and installation of selected streetscape amenities. The components of such are described and illustrated in the pages that follow. An attractive planting in the browsing zone just outside <br />the store does not clutter or dis-unify the streetscape. These barrel-style pots are an effective unifying device, despite any perceived lack of elegance. Sidewalk Paving Scored, cast-in-place <br />concrete with bands of cobbles or taupe-colored pavers to delineate sidewalk zones and tree wells would constitute a similar, yet simplified, version of the existing pavements downtown. <br />Concrete with a 1.5’ to 2’ scoring pattern would replace pavers within the browsing and transition zones, as it is be implemented as soon as possible: new roadway striping to clarify <br />traveling lanes and bikeways; new crosswalks striping and signage for heightened visibility; a new crosswalk on Main Street at the intersection of Gothic Street to meet a recognized <br />need; and perhaps also a shorter, re-aligned crosswalk toward City Hall. <br />Northampton Streetscape Improvement Plan Recommendations PROPOSALS cheaper to install and more flexible in regard to additions. Concrete with a larger 5’ to 6’ scoring pattern would <br />prevail within the pedestrian walking zone. Typical sidewalk dimensions are shown in the drawings. The sidewalks along Pleasant Street should be paved in like fashion, with adjustments <br />to accommodate narrower widths. The walking zone should be a minimum of 5’, in any event, to accommodate two people walking together. Tree wells and transition zones would be reduced, <br />typically, to 4’. Tree wells and transition zones would need to be eliminated in narrowest circumstances. In such case, a line of canopy trees on the back side of sidewalks is highly <br />recommended. Tree plantings on private property, to be sure, would need to be negotiated with owners. Lighting Installing customized pedestrian-scaled light post fixtures along Main <br />and Pleasant Streets would make a significant improvement to the streetscape. Such addition would create a a more user-friendly environment and become a mark of identity for downtown <br />Northampton. This report recommends several alternative light fixture styles to be considered during the design process. Whichever style is chosen, the guiding principle is to install <br />the same light fixtures throughout downtown and to replace the existing gas light standard over time. Further design phase investigation is needed to determine the advisability of replacing <br />or augmenting the existing cobra-style fixtures. Pedestrian-scale light posts are a significant streetscape feature. The post shown here from Camden, Maine, doubles as a support for <br />colorful annual plantings. Furnishings