What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Since it’s visionary creation in 1981, the Church Street Marketplace has long been viewed as the iconic centerpiece of downtown Burlington. Over the years, projects in other parts of downtown have utilized a wide range of furnishings and materials on an ad hoc basis, resulting in streets with varying characteristics and levels of investment, function, and durability. Born out of the adoption of the city’s signature comprehensive downtown master plan, voter approval to use the city’s TIF district to make generational investments in downtown public infrastructure, and significant private redevelopment, the Great Streets Standards were a foundational tool to guide and manage public street improvements for the next several decades. The goals for the creation of the Standards included:
• Implementing the community’s vision for its streets as public spaces that are walkable & bikeable, sustainable, vibrant, and functional by identifying a common palette of materials and furnishings that could be implemented as streets are reconstructed over time.
• Creating a public realm that showcases buildings’ facades, signage, and public art as the unique and authentic elements of the downtown, and which complements Church Street’s distinctive visual character without replicating it wholesale.
• Combining city, state, and federal requirements for street design into a single document, that identifies a family of elements that can be adapted to unique street conditions, project budgets, and streets’ programming constraints.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
• City Team: Included staff from 9 city departments representing all divisions with a role in planning, designing, or maintaining public rights-of-way, including Public Works, Community Development, Planning & Zoning, and City Arts. This team provided information regarding current built infrastructure and maintenance; identified community planning, design, and technical/policy documents which should influence the project goals and outcomes; solicited public input on key elements of the standards; and worked with the consulting team to refine the palette of elements ultimately included in the Standards.
• Consulting Team: A multi-disciplinary team of designers and engineers including urban design, landscape architecture, lighting design, civil and transportation engineering, and transportation planning. The full team included: Suisman Urban Design, DuBois & King, Michael Vergason LA, WagnerHodgson LA, Domingo Gonzalez Associates, Urban|Rain Design, Third Sector Associates, and Toole Design Group. This team worked to create a cohesive palette of elements that embodied the city’s (sometimes conflicting) urban design, sustainability, maintenance, and financial criteria. The team provided recommendations and conducted research on behalf of the city related to material and furnishing specifications; street typologies and cross-sections; and creative problem solving for space-constrained public rights-of-way.
• Elected & Citizen decision-makers: in addition to general citizen input on the design objectives and individual elements within these standards, the project included the review and approval of the Standards by six public boards and commissions. This included the Public Works Commission, Parks & Recreation Commission, and Electric Commission as well as the City Council and the Council’s Parks, Arts & Culture Committee and the Transportation, Energy & Utilities Committee. These boards are each vested with authority over various aspects of the design and maintenance of city streets, and were individually and collectively responsible for endorsing a set of standards which balanced all of the functions of the city’s public rights-of-way.
• Two public art review panels: engaged to solicit and select Public Art for City Hall Park, slated to break ground in the spring of 2019, and 10 blocks of the first streets to utilize the Great Streets Standards, several of which are under construction and several more slated for construction of the next 2-4 years.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The city’s first downtown master plan, planBTV: Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan, identified seven place-based themes for a sustainable downtown, including building a vibrant economy. This theme identified the need to expand the energy and atmosphere of the Church Street Marketplace to the side streets, and all the way to the waterfront by creating an active and inviting pedestrian environment. Public investment in clean and wider sidewalks, pedestrian scale lighting, benches and public art, street trees and flowers, street musicians and outdoor cafes, and bright colors and well-maintained amenities are all elements that are identified as being key to creating this environment. The Great Streets Standards address these elements, and are a critical tool to ensure that public investment over time enlivens these streets as public spaces that support and are supported by the civic, economic and cultural activities happening along them.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Per the project's professional design team, inspiration was found in many streets, neighborhoods, and projects in places like San Francisco, Boston, Indianapolis, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and Montreal. However, the designers quickly learned that Burlington had lots to offer with its own rich history, economy, arts, natural setting, and its readiness to embrace change that ultimately shaped the approach to this project.