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Street Lighting Downtown Nashville, TN

Prismatic lighting serves as design element
in Nashville revitalization project

City officials were hoping to return part of downtown Nashville to its former glory years when they invested nearly $7 million to revitalize a nine-block area of Church Street. This popular thoroughfare, which was once considered a shopping hub, is home to modern and historic architecture—from high rise buildings to antebellum churches. Tourist destinations such as Ryman Auditorium (site of the original Grand Ole Opry) and Printer’s Alley are only a block or two away.

When many of the department stores that had lured shoppers to the area during the 1940s and ‘50s started their migration to suburban shopping malls, Church Street began to deteriorate. In 1988, then-Mayor Richard Fulton led the first attempt at downtown revitalization, turning the street into a serpentine design with brick paving in an effort to slow traffic and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Seventeen years later, when the area was still failing to attract developers and traffic—especially pedestrian traffic—Mayor Bill Purcell spearheaded a new revitalization project that involved straightening Church Street and Capitol Boulevard and transforming former one-way sections into a two-way street with pull-offs. The project also included widening sidewalks and adding functional and decorative touches such as bike racks, benches, trash cans, trees and a new lighting system.

In the past, Church Street and the surrounding area had been illuminated with shoe-box type lighting fixtures with 250-watt high pressure sodium lamps. Because the units were mounted on 25- to 30-foot poles, they provided much of the light needed on the roadway but failed to supply illumination on a pedestrian scale.

“When we were considering the lighting system, we wanted fixtures that would help create a live and vibrant community where people would want to gather at night,” said Michael Williams, vice president, electrical engineering manager, Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon, Inc., Nashville. “The goal was to provide a high level of lighting uniformity at the pedestrian level while emphasizing the various colors and textures of the streetscape and buildings.”

Working with the Public Works department and the Metro Nashville streetscape guidelines under development, Williams learned the city’s plans called for historically-styled luminaires designed to provide 100 percent indirect lighting. Because these fixtures would not have the ability to provide the illumination desired on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas, Williams recommended Gulf Shore Utility fixtures from Holophane with 175-watt metal halide lamps.

The Gulf Shore units, which blend historical significance with classically Euro-styled elegance, include an attractive prismatic outer sphere that is twice as efficient as traditional spheres while minimizing disabling high angle brightness. Precisely molded prisms direct the light where it is needed in a controlled symmetrical distribution, assuring excellent uniformity and greater spacing between luminaires.

Approximately 100 luminaires were installed within the nine-block area, mounted on black 12-foot cast aluminum fluted decorative poles that match existing poles installed in other downtown areas. The poles are mounted three feet from the curb, with staggered spacing from 75 to 100 feet—depending on the street layout. Dual luminaires are mounted on 20-foot poles at the intersections.

Illumination levels average 1.5 to 1.8 footcandles, with an average minimum uniformity of 2.3 to 1 and a maximum to minimum uniformity of 3.5 to 1.

“The lighting system far exceeds any roadway criteria as far as illumination levels are concerned,” said Williams. “The lighting is very attractive and uniform. When people look down the street, they do not see any noticeable light and dark areas.”

According to Williams, Church Street is the first metal halide public project for Nashville Electric Service, the local utility, which had always installed lighting fixtures with high pressure sodium lamps in the past.

“Utility and city personnel have been impressed with the color rendering capabilities of the metal halide system and its ability to create a more comfortable environment,” Williams said.

The Church Street revitalization project was completed in less than 14 months and stayed within budget. City officials expect the renovated area to encourage corporate and residential growth, with plans already in place to build 500 new residential units within a span of five blocks, which would nearly double the number of existing area residences.

Marie Anderson, street lighting engineer with Nashville Electric Service, indicated Church Street is the flagship project completed under the city’s new downtown streetscape guidelines.

“The lighting is a design element within the new streetscape,” she said. “The luminaires have greatly improved the area’s appearance and helped to create an attractive and uniformly lit environment where people feel comfortable after dark.”


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