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Street Lighting Nashville 12th Avenue.

Holphane lighting helps revitalize
urban Nashville neighborhood

Twelfth Avenue South in downtown Nashville, Tennessee had become a virtual raceway for automotive traffic. Cars zoomed through the half-mile stretch without stoplights or stop signs to slow them or encourage them to stop. The impression was that people were always passing through. Twelve South was not a part of the city where they wanted to spend any time.

Over the years, the lack of pedestrian traffic had caused the area to deteriorate. Except for local residents, few people frequented the ‘50s-style commercial strip, which was surrounded by neighborhoods. When darkness fell, store owners closed their shops and their patrons went home. Few pedestrians could be found on the street at night because the unfriendly environment and a growing crime rate deterred them.

In 1997, the Nashville Development and Housing Authority (NDHA) launched a campaign to strengthen the identity of 12 South. The campaign began with a series of surveys and meetings to ask people what concerns they had about the street. The response was almost unanimous: people were concerned about pedestrian safety. That wanted an environment that was conducive to pedestrian traffic, a place where people could park their cars a block away and walk to their destinations.

The surveys also revealed that people were often uncertain as to where they should walk. The existing concrete sidewalk was intermittent and some of the driveway aprons were as much as 50 feet wide. Residents wanted to create a safe zone where people could feel comfortable during the day or at night.
Working with landscape architect Gary Hawkins, principal, Hawkins Partners, Inc., Nashville, NDHA funded a revitalization. The project involved narrowing the roadway, widening the sidewalks, and landscaping along the street.

One of the first steps was to reduce the width of the roadway—which had been 40 feet and wider— to two 11-foot lanes with protected on-street parking on both sides. Pedestrian bulbs on each corner protect the parking spaces. This layout is often used for “traffic calming”—a method of promoting a physical and psychological adjustment that makes people reduce their speed.

“In the ‘60s, the streets were constructed with head-in parking. Drivers would pull their vehicles into the space in front of the store where they wanted to shop. When they wanted to leave, they would back their cars onto the street. Our goal was to change the way people think. We wanted them to park at a distance, then stop at two or three locations on the way to their destinations,” Hawkins explained.

The revitalization included the installation of six-foot sidewalks and planting areas for trees and street furniture. Area art classes competed to develop the best furniture design. The project also involved replacing the existing cobrahead lighting fixtures with luminaires scaled to the new environment.

The city of Nashville had already standardized on acorn-shaped GranVille® luminaires from Holophane. While the GranVille units had the photometrics needed, Hawkins felt the fixtures were too Victorian for 12 South.

“We wanted luminaires that would help set 12 South apart from other areas within the city,” he said. “We were looking for luminaires that would allow us to give the area a banner treatment that would make people want to stop and spend some time there—instead of just passing through.”

Hallbrook® luminaires from Holophane with 150-watt high-pressure sodium lamps were installed. The units have photometric distributions similar to the GranVille fixtures but offer a more contemporary look.

“Twelve South has an ethnically diverse neighborhood,” said Hawkins. “While the buildings are historic, the people in the area want to look ahead to the future instead of dwelling on the past. We like the contemporary lines of the Hallbrook units, which give the area a modern, progressive feel.”

Prior to the revitalization, 12 South was populated with essentially a sea of wooden poles that supported the cobrahead fixtures and overhead utility lines. Because the lines could not be buried, the original poles were removed and replaced along the western side of the street with fewer, taller poles that could hold more wires.

The Hallbrook fixtures were installed along both sides of the street, mounted on 18-foot black aluminum poles with a decorative clam shell base. Twenty-five poles—with banners—were utilized along the half-mile stretch, spaced 50 to 75 feet, depending upon the parking and the location of the intersections. The poles with single-head luminaires are installed in the sidewalk.

The fixtures are illuminated throughout the night, controlled by photocells located at two stations. The photocells are contained within a box mounted to a pole. Each box also has a breaker switch that manually controls the luminaires.

Light levels along the streets are 2 footcandles, with a 1 to 1.5 average to minimum and 3 to 1 maximum to minimum.

“The lighting has helped transform 12 South from an arterial environment to a streetscape environment. People immediately recognize this as a redeveloped area. Pedestrian traffic has increased tremendously because people feel comfortable moving about at night,” Hawkins described.

He added that one of the best measures of the project’s success has been the ongoing investment in building renovation by the public sector. A growing number of businesses—including high tech companies—have also moved to the area.

“Twelve South has become a pedestrian scale model for the city,” related Hawkins. “Officials are patterning other parts of Nashville after this area.”

The Hallbrook luminaires—like the GranVille units—have become a standard for the city.


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