Envisioning a Town Green: The Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Part seven of a nine part series on the proposed town green on Railroad Avenue.

Conceptual rendering showing rainwater features on the proposed town green. Select this image for a larger view.

It’s not easy being green, but it beats the alternative. Whether you’re a banjo playing frog or looking to meet someone at the rainbow’s end, life is better with clean water. Unfortunately Downtown Tucker doesn’t have a river walk, but what we do have should be valued and cultivated. That includes smart use of stormwater.

Undeveloped site of the future town green on Railroad Avenue.

Creating a town green in the heart of the city is an opportunity to do things right. For those familiar with the west side of Main Street water runoff has been a challenge for years. The new stormwater infrastructure being installed under the alleys will help, but there is more opportunity on the site of the town green.

Newly installed manhole cover above storm drain in alley next to the future town green.

Today the town green site collects rainwater near the center of the property. It’s not uncommon for water to back up above ground and flood Railroad Avenue as it enters the storm drain system. Rather than attempting to pipe all the water underground, there is an opportunity to benefit from the existing flow of water above ground, to prevent flooding on Railroad Avenue, and to be an amenity on the property.

This involves creating a day-lit stream above ground and rain gardens, or bioswales, with an intentional and attractive design. One that benefits plants and birds, acts as a natural filtration system, and can prevent the heavy overflow of water, from thunderstorms, that tend to cause flooding in the street.

The Downtown Tucker Alley Activation study, developed for the Tucker-Northlake CID by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Atlanta Center for Leadership Mini Technical Assistance Panel in 2020, presents the benefits of green infrastructure to both the environment and to humans in the alleys. These same principles apply equally to the town green, but on a much larger scale.

Illustration of a bioswale from the Downtown Tucker Alley Activation study.

“Bioswales are storm water runoff conveyance systems that provide an alternative to storm sewers.” Documents like the Chicago Green Alley Handbook, and the City of Atlanta’s Green Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan, focus on the use of storm water to feed the surrounding environment and reducing the rate and volume of water runoff.

Conceptual rendering of bridges crossing day-lit creek at the Tucker town green.

In the absence of natural water ways some communities, like Salt Lake City, have created artificial creeks in their downtowns, including a creek that flows through City Creek Mall. Essentially self-contained linear water features.

Photo of artificial creek in open air section of City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Both natural and artificial creeks in public spaces can capitalize on the soothing tones and attractive qualities of flowing water, without creating areas that breed mosquitoes or attract crowds of would-be swimmers.

In addition to a rain garden, the concept created by Lord Aeck Sargent includes over 30 shade producing trees across the property. Shade from direct sunlight can have the effect of making the air feel 10 to 15 degrees cooler year-round.

No matter how the property is developed, the proposed site of the town green is part of an existing ecosystem. The new infrastructure on the property can be built in a way that complements and sustains that ecosystem. One that looks intentional, well thought out, and adds to the functionality and beauty of the property.

Conceptual rendering showing trees shading sidewalk next to the town green

[Please note that the images on this site related to the town green are for discussion purposes only. A final design has not been selected by the City Council. The Council is expected to make a decision on implementation later this year following inclusion of additional public input and recommendations from Barge Design Solutions.]

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