14th Street extends in a north-south direction from Broad Street to the James River and Mayo Bridge in Richmond’s Downtown District. Few businesses front 14th Street. However, the corridor serves as a primary route for pedestrians and vehicles, providing access to and egress from Shockoe Bottom businesses, Richmond’s Canal Walk, the James Monroe Office Building and two Commonwealth of Virginia parking garages. The area is a gateway to the city from I-95, a center of local and state government, tourism and entertainment, bordered at the north by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and on the south by the environmentally sensitive James River watershed.
Noting the site’s barren landscape and steep slope toward the river, Capital Trees selected the 14th Street corridor as a pilot project in 2010. Working with city officials, architecture firm 3north and Waterstreet Studio, the team set out to transform this heavily travelled concrete canyon.
Plans were developed for two phases of streetscape enhancements, calling for removal of tons of concrete and dead and dying street trees, expanded tree wells, replacement with trees suitable for the adverse urban environment, pedestrian lighting, improved sidewalks, educational signage and low-impact development (LID) storm water facilities intended to reduce storm water runoff and improve storm water quality.
Phase I (Main Street to Bank Street) enhancements were completed in the fall of 2011 and the impact is noteworthy. Maples suffering from sun scald and limited root volume were removed from the western curb line and replaced with a continuous planting strip of swamp white oaks and ginkgo trees; similar plantings were installed in what was once a monolithic concrete median; and engineered storm water filtering tree planters were installed along the eastern curb line.
In addition to the tremendous aesthetic impact the plantings have had, the storm water facilities are providing much needed reduction in phosphorous loads (25-35%) and peak flow runoff (50%) to Richmond’s combined sewer outfalls.
Phase II of the 14th Street Initiative (Bank Street to Broad Street) is under construction, to be complete in fall 2014. Dying maples along the west curb line of this block will be replaced with London plane trees planted in expanded tree wells and structural soils, while a continuous planting of ginkgoes will replace the monolithic concrete median and visually tie the two blocks together. LID storm water facilities along the eastern curb line serve as retention and treatment facilities of storm water runoff.