The City of Opelika recently completed a major redesign to First Avenue in Downtown. The project was conceived to provide a pedestrian friendly conversion of an existing street that had three lanes. First Avenue has had constant problems with cut through traffic that traveled too fast for a downtown environment. The new conversion to two - 11 ft. lanes opened the rest of the area between the buildings to have ample sidewalk/pedestrian and street café areas.
“First and foremost, we want to thank our businesses for being patient while we completed this complex project. We faced major challenges with old infrastructure underground utilities including storm pipe, sanitary sewers and water lines. Drainage was a major consideration in the design of the project because all of the roof drains flowed to the south, toward the railroad tracks. We knew we would have to be creative in the new design,” said Scott Parker, City of Opelika Engineer.
He added, the idea including bioretention systems was conceived to add stormwater detention to the area along with landscaping/trees and to incorporate the café areas all in one facility. This is the first bioretention system in Opelika. Not only is bioretention designed to retain stormwater, the plants and trees in the system are designed to remove pollutants that come from the roof and roads.
Because everything slopes to the south edge of the roadway, we added a flush crossing on the north. Modeled after the Toomers Corner streetscape concept in Auburn, placing bollards to separate the road from the sidewalk was necessary because there is no curb on the north.
Existing and historic granite curbing that was on site was repurposed and used as a border between the road and the bioretention systems. There are gaps placed between the pieces of curb to allow the stormwater to flow into the cells. Gray tinted concrete was used as an architectural feature to help the First Avenue block stand out from other areas of town.
The city is still looking at implementation of overhead string lights to replace the bright lights that are currently on poles. This is in an effort to give the street more of a “block party” atmosphere and add to the popularity and ambiance of the venues on the block.
Plan View and Landscaping