Evanston’s Fountain Square employs a pedestrian-oriented, curbless plaza design, while delivering an effective stormwater management solution with permeable pavers.
Evanston, Ill.’s Fountain Square Plaza dates back to the late 1800s and has a long-lasting history as a cultural center and an integral piece of the city’s urban fabric. However, the pre-existing fountain and surrounding plaza areas were in poor condition and in need of repair. Meanwhile, the city continued to grow and it lacked a place that could safely support downtown festivals and events. When funds were allocated to tackle the infrastructure improvements and a plaza redesign, the city turned to the community for inspiration. As stakeholders and community members gathered to reimagine this outdoor space, importance was placed on the pedestrian experience.
In order to deliver on the communities’ vision for the revitalized Fountain Square Plaza, Teska Associates developed a design that extends the plaza and repurposes the underutilized vehicle lanes, narrowing the surrounding streets and creating a more pedestrian focus. The elevation of the roadways was also brought up to the same level as the plaza, thereby creating a curbless or “shared” street. This allows for flexibility in street closures so that the city and community can host a range of festivals or other programmable events.
In addition to enhancing the pedestrian experience, stormwater management also needed to be addressed. The increased frequency and intensity of storms, flooding and snowmelt events, combined with commonly used impervious surfaces in urban environments, has increased the amount of stormwater runoff. Therefore, it was important for the site to be carefully engineered to ensure positive drainage away from the plaza’s surrounding buildings and residences.
Unilock worked with the Teska Associates team to develop the construction details and to visualize the color blend of the pavers used through multiple site mock-up reviews. The resulting grid-like design that defines the plaza was achieved with Eco-Promenade permeable plank pavers with Umbriano finish in three distinct colors. These pavers were selected for their ability to create a sustainable and effective solution for stormwater management. Installed on a concrete base with weep holes for added durability and vehicular loading, the design ensures that the runoff captured by the permeable pavers can drain into the sandy soils below without overloading the underground storm sewers while being capable of withstanding the many uses of the space.
Meanwhile, the built-in technologies of Umbriano allow for a unique and beautiful finish with increased durability and wear-resistance, as well as integral surface protection from stains. To ensure pedestrian safety, Unigranite was also used as a rumble strip between the plaza and the roadways to define the transition from vehicular to pedestrian realms.
Today, this vibrant shared streetscape serves as a community destination accommodating the thousands of people who pass through this plaza every day. Jodi Mariano, pla, Principal at Teska Associates, notes that “the paving is one of those special elements that provides a unique backdrop to the constant flow of bikers, walkers, dancers,music-makers, exercisers, shoppers, diners and people watchers.”