Library Story Park, designed by Brian H. Starkey, Landscape Architect and Director of Parks and Recreation at WithersRavenel, has received an award from the N.C. chapter of the American Planning Association in the category of Great Places / Great Transformation.
The transformation of this prominent corner in downtown Wilmington, from a once forbidding space disconnected from the street to a multifunctional place for the library and community, is a remarkable and welcome addition to downtown.
Located at the front door of the main branch of the New Hanover County library system, the previous “Carolina Courtyard” had no relationship to the street. The space was literally “walled off”. Entries to the library were hidden and there were several hiding places within the space. The ground elevations and relationship to the adjacent parking deck contributed not only to the creation of hidden areas but also presented accessibility issues.
The space is now an attractive and comfortable place to traverse, from the deck to nearby Thalian Hall or City Hall in addition to the library, any time of day or night. Visitors have a full visual understanding of the park from any point within the space and it is also possible for park activities to be easily monitored. The space is universally accessible and the location and spatial scale of the central open space in conjunction with walks and plantings create a sense of enclosure that does not compromise visibility. Thematic garden beds, paving patterns, incorporation of permeable pavers and the rain garden all contribute to the park’s unique identity. The three garden areas exhibit edible, pollinator and shade plants.
The streetscapes along Chestnut and Third streets were incorporated into the design and entries to the library celebrated. Paving patterns and plantings lead visitors to the library’s front door, creating a sequential sense of entry. The streetscape also includes additional street trees, signage, places for rotating public art and a bike corral.
Pavement was reduced substantially, and a sustainable stormwater management approach was implemented. In addition to reductions in impervious surfaces, a rain garden and permeable pavers filter runoff prior to it entering the underground infrastructure.
As an urban green space, the park is inclusive and offers an escape from the heat, a space for gathering, a place for children to play, and opportunities for education.
In addition to his position at WithersRavenel, Brian is also the current Trustee for the N.C. Chapter of The American Society of Landscape Architects and has practiced landscape architecture for more than 30 years.
Brian collaborated on the design with Lauren Dickson, PLA, and Jon Blasco, PLA. A sister project in Wilmington, also designed by the team, is Cape Fear Museum Park.
Want to put Brian and WithersRavenel to work for your community on a parks or recreation project? Contact Brian at (919) 238-0305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.