Revitalisation of Downtown Ennis,...

Stratavault System paved the way for the revitalization of Downtown Ennis

A ‘Green Streets’ approach was taken for the design of infrastructure and making Dallas Street, in Ennis, Texas more accessible and beneficial to downtown residents and tourists alike.

Ennis Stratavault Citygreen

Development of the City’s Masterplan

Downtown Ennis, located 25 minutes south of Dallas, is known for its 19th-century historic architecture and iconic brick streets.

It was once a bustling urban hub for the agricultural economy until the construction of the I-45 bypass combined with changes to the agriculture industry shifted development and commercial activities away from the region. David Newman, from MESA Design Group said

“The construction of the l-45 bypass resulted in a decline in population and economic vitality. Despite this shift, Ennis retained much of its downtown fabric.”

With its current population of over 20,000, the city was now looking to cultivate its residential growth again. In fact, the demand for work, leisure and mixed-use spaces was starting to increase – making investors interested in Downtown Ennis once more.

In anticipation of this future growth, the City developed a Downtown Master Plan, serving as a guide for future development and economic revitalisation. This included redesigning their own streetscape.

Through Citygreen’s Stratavault™ system, the project commenced at Dallas Street to make it more attractive, accessible and beneficial to downtown’s residents and tourists alike.

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Dallas Street before project commenced

Project goals

The overall objective of the Downtown Master Plan centred around establishing more investment opportunities for existing and new local businesses to nurture economic growth for the city.

In order to achieve this, the following project goals were set:

  • Beautify the downtown area to make it a tourist and entertainment destination
  • Mitigate physical barriers that restrict movement
  • Ensure that the pedestrian experience is enhanced, without ruining the historical and cultural heritage
  • Heighten the safety, serviceability and comfort of the downtown’s streetscape
  • Make the city’s urban environment conducive for the growth of large, long-living trees

Drawing from these goals, the design focused on creating a modern, active and dynamic downtown that prioritised the pedestrian experience, celebrating the rich history and cultural heritage of downtown, while accommodating vehicular needs.

The redesigned downtown streetscape environment was also designed to encourage visitors to have authentic and unique experiences, distinguishing itself from the commodity-based retail environment of the nearby I-45 corridor.

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Dallas Street under construction

Project methodology

From the start, the city faced several constraints including a limited budget and a tight construction schedule. They also had to take into account the existing cast iron and historic brick threshold that had to be preserved, all while creating an accessible and barrier-free streetscape.

Keeping these challenges and project goals in mind, they opted to utilise the Green Streets approach. A ‘Green Streets’ approach was taken for the design of infrastructure and pedestrian improvements, in response to the goals of increasing safety, serviceability, comfort and beauty.

This meant replacing the impermeable curb and gutter section with a suspended paving system – that is, Citygreen’s Stratavault™ system. David said,

“The project evaluated the pros and cons of the typical approach with structural soil and suspended paving. It was determined that the best value would be the suspended paving system. We then compared the products on the market and chose the Stratavault™ system based on reviews, input for construction economy and cost,”

said David Newman, from MESA Design Group.

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Design & Construction

To implement Phase I (design and construction) of the project, MESA Design Group and the City of Ennis also collaborated with the team from Gresham Smith headed by Engineer, Tim O’Brien. According to Tim,

“It’s a true team effort. MESA provided the landscape design for Phase I of the master plan implementation, while we supported their efforts by providing water, wastewater and stormwater utility design as well as civil and site design.”

MESA also enlisted the help of Construction Ecoservices and Fain Construction to equip the city’s trees with adequate soil volume to address concerns regarding pavement heaving and underground utilities.

Led by Construction Ecoservices distributor, Anthony Kendrick and Fain Construction’s installer, Noel Sanchez, permeable pavers were installed on top of soil cells to capture sheet flow from the buildings before entering the storm drain.

The system created an organised utility infrastructure corridor that facilitated repairs and maintenance, and provided a structural system supporting a permeable paver section, capable of supporting heavy duty vehicular loading. The soil mix specified as part of this system provided a high percentage of void space, optimising the growing environment for street trees and understory plantings. It also provided stormwater filtration, groundwater recharge and detention.

The Solution was Stratavault

The Stratavault™ system from Citygreen, with its affordability and eco-friendly attributes, served as a perfect solution for the requirements of Downtown Ennis. The streetscape design provided preserved and highlighted the historic beauty of the city.

The sustainable features of the system also optimised the growth of urban trees and developed the city’s stormwater detention ability. In total, there are now over 45 different plant species throughout the downtown, all of which are native or adaptive to the region. An alley of Princeton American Elm trees in the Stratavault™ system line the street, providing a cathedral-like corridor of cool, dappled shade in the hot summer months, and allowing warm sunlight through in the cool winter months. Decorated in holiday lighting, the trees will serve as a grand sculptural lighting display during the annual ‘Lights of Ennis’ holiday festival.

Downtown Ennis’ 19th-century vintage charm, together with the benefits delivered by the 21st-century green infrastructure of Citygreen, has now been consistently attracting more visitors and investors into the city. This influx is expected to continuously support the area’s variety of retail, restaurant, entertainment and residential businesses, making the local economy thrive in the process. The design of Dallas Street now offers a mixture of intimate and casual public spaces, as well as a variety of outdoor dining and gathering spaces suitable for activities and events throughout the year, including festivals, street markets and musical and theatrical performances.

“The key benefit that the Stratavault™ system offered was the opportunity to have mature canopy trees in the urban environment, while also offering green infrastructure components such as capturing stormwater on site. It was also reasonably easy for the contractor to understand how to install it too,” David said.

Citygreen is beyond grateful to be involved in such a significant project by the City of Ennis. In revitalising the beauty of Downtown Ennis, it has also been a privilege for us to work with MESA Design Group, Gresham Smith, Construction Eco Services and Fain Construction.

At Citygreen, we have a wide range of cutting-edge urban landscape products like the Stratavault™ system that can make your communities greener, healthier and more sustainable. If your goal is to optimise your city’s potential, speak to us today.

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