Front Street is a vibrant part of downtown Wilmington and the City’s Historic District, offering an array of dining and entertainment options with views of the Cape Fear River. When Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD), which has been located in Wilmington since 1986, decided to construct a new building to house its company headquarters, the City seized the opportunity to redevelop Front Street and the portion of Harnett Street in front of the building to create a more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing corridor. Working with multiple City departments, WithersRavenel provided master planning, streetscape design, stormwater engineering, and landscape architectural services to accomplish these goals while incorporating significant environmental improvements into the design.
The master planning effort depended heavily on WithersRavenel performing extensive research and due diligence to create an inventory of existing downtown streetscape elements. This data was supplemented by community input and a design charrette to develop a master plan that addressed the needs of many stakeholder groups, including residents, business owners, PPD employees, and visitors.
The design was divided into two phases: Phase I involved intersection improvements to Front Street and Harnett Street near the PPD site, and Phase II involved all streetscape and amenity design to transform Front street into a downtown gateway, including sidewalk and crosswalk paving patterns, materials, and colors; decorative street lighting; tree location and species selection; tree grates for sidewalks; benches; trash containers; and unique street, directional, and pedestrian signage. WithersRavenel also coordinated with utility companies to convert to underground utilities during Phase II.
A key component of the design was stormwater retrofits. As originally conceived, the project would rely on conventional stormwater management techniques and had no water quality component: urban runoff would be delivered directly to the Cape Fear River via the existing City storm drain system. But because WithersRavenel engaged with City personnel across multiple departments, the firm was exposed to the various departments’ policy objectives beyond simple street beautification, including the implementation of green infrastructure and Low Impact Development strategies. Through these relationships, WithersRavenel was able to bring the departments together to explore ways to integrate roadway engineering, stormwater management, and landscape architecture into a more effective design.
The improved stormwater management system includes Filterra® tree box filters, landscaped concrete container containing a specially designed filter media mixture. WithersRavenel chose a Filterra® system because it offers a compact footprint and the ability to install the tree box filters without introducing major revisions to the existing storm drainage network, both of which are essential to an urban retrofit project in a heavily congested corridor. The Filterra® system is also designed to handle high volumes of runoff with a shorter detention time than other options, which reduces the health and safety risks associated with larger detention structures. The result is a stormwater management system that produces discharge with a much smaller impact on the Cape Fear River.