The Imagining Livability Design Collection

Solutions for Small-Town Main Streets

Three placemaking "photovisions" show how once empty downtowns can become destinations

Cover of the Imagining Livability Design Collection

Click the image (above) for more livability tools, "before and after" transformations and to download the complete "Imagining Livability Design Collection."

The transformations presented here show real locations as they appeared during visits by AARP Livable Communities and the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) between 2010 and 2015.

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WALC helped each community develop a vision for the future, and it created photovisions to reflect those changes and how each place could be made better. The "transformations" presented here are among those discussed in The Imagining Livability Design Collection, a 40-page "visual portfolio of tools and transformations." The collection can be downloaded by clicking the image at right. Additional materials from the document will be added to this website soon.

Inspiring Redevelopment in KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE

This corner on the edge of the downtown provides great potential for an underperforming area that’s dominated by a dusty parking lot and strip-format buildings. Across one street, the city has constructed a multiuse path that will connect to a “greenbelt” trail for walking and bicycling. Nearby, a new building houses medical offices and the Chamber of Commerce.

Kingsport, Tennessee, at present

The Present — Photo by the WALC Institute

The Challenges

  • Although this is an underperforming area, nearby development creates a demand for services and people are frequently seen crossing midblock.

  • The intersection is somewhat chaotic, with drivers "shooting the gap" to make left turns and with two legs of the intersection lacking crosswalk markings.

  • The road is overbuilt for cars and is a great candidate for a road diet.
Kingsport, Tennessee, proposed

The Possibilities — Photovision by the WALC Institute and TDC Design Studio

Envisioning a More Livable Future

  • The street is retrofit to be more supportive of people and a mix of land uses makes it a premier destination.

  • Greater density and multistory buildings are allowed.

  • Blocks are about 300 feet long and rows of buildings front the streets, creating an interior courtyard within them.

  • On-street parking reduces the need for off-street parking, which simultaneously improves walking conditions by helping to calm traffic and to create a buffer between vehicles and pedestrians.

  • Any new off-street parking is placed behind the buildings.

  • Where existing parking lots meet the sidewalk or street, they are given "edges," such as attractive landscaping, transparent fences or low walls.

  • A modern roundabout moves vehicles safely and more efficiently while also making crossings easier and safer for pedestrians.

Making Downtown a Destination in AVONDALE ESTATES, GEORGIA

A strong sense of place and identity is created in Avondale Estates through its unique architecture, including many Tudor-style buildings. The central business district certainly benefits from these attractive buildings, as well as from on-street parking that sends the visual cue for drivers to slow down. Unfortunately, the downtown area has become a place for residents and visitors to pass through rather than stay.

Avondale Estates, Georgia, at present

The Present — Photo by the WALC Institute

The Challenges

  • The posted speed limit and actual vehicle speeds are too fast for a place that should be focused on people, not just on cars.

  • The intersection is complex, with many potential points of conflict.

  • Pedestrian crossings are missing.

  • Street corners have overly wide "turning radii.”

  • The area lacks street furniture and other amenities such as bicycle racks, landscaping, wayfinding signage, and trash and recycling bins.
Avondale Estates, Georgia, proposed

The Possibilities — Photovision by the WALC Institute and TDC Design Studio

Envisioning a More Livable Future

  • A sense of arrival is enhanced by converting the intersection to a modern roundabout with a mini roundabout preceding it. (This combination of tools slows cars while keeping traffic flowing. It also reduces noise and makes it easier to get into and out of a parking spot.)

  • The increased quiet makes the area more suitable for outdoor dining.

  • Large vehicles can make turns without encroaching on the corners.

  • A colored surface is added to the intersection to further calm traffic and reinforce the community’s character and identity.

  • Overhead wires are removed.
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