Baylor University – 5th Street Promenade
Several years ago, Baylor University closed 5th Street through the heart of campus to eliminate vehicular traffic, improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and provide a gathering place for various campus events. While this closure achieved Baylor’s functional goals for this area, the pavement was very old and in poor condition. Furthermore, the presence of curb and gutter served as a continuous obstacle to the zigzagging pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Baylor University desired to remove the old 5th Street pavement and replace it with a wide, decorative, illuminated, and landscaped promenade. In the middle of this promenade, near the Fountain Mall area, Baylor planned a monumental water feature that would serve as a landmark for the heart of campus. The challenges associated with this project included utility relocations, fountain design coordination, drainage, promenade geometry, budget, and design and construction schedule.
Most of the utilities along 5th Street had been in place for decades, their exact location and condition unknown. Through Walker Partners’ close relationships with the City of Waco and franchise utility operators, the existing utilities were quickly identified, located, and assessed. Subsequently, Walker Partners prepared relocation plans for the water and wastewater lines and coordinated with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) for the relocation of franchise utilities. This was a significant effort due to the complex design of the promenade and fountain.
When first diving into the project, Walker Partners quickly recognized that there is a large drainage area contributing to the promenade, but the proposed cross section of the promenade would not convey runoff very well since there were no curbs. The Walker Partners’ Team developed a storm drain design that would capture as much runoff as possible upstream of the project and convey it under the promenade and around the fountain to its outfall into Waco Creek. Along the promenade, Walker Partners proposed an edge drain and strategically placed area drains to capture local flows. The price tag for this design was much more than anticipated by the University, but Walker Partners was committed to providing Baylor with the very best solution. Walker Partners convinced University officials that the design was imperative, especially because of the considerable amount of runoff and frequent drainage complaints.
One of Baylor’s goals for the promenade was for it to serve as the future route of its annual Homecoming Parade. This parade features dozens of floats prepared by student and local organizations. The floats are allowed to be up to 50’ long and 20’ wide. Moreover, the promenade needed to accommodate fire and EMS vehicles in the event of an emergency. The ideal location for the proposed fountain was at the intersection of Fountain Mall and 5th Street, the heart of Baylor campus. If the fountain was small, it would not have been an issue to provide a turning radius for parade floats and fire trucks; however, the fountain concept for this project was enormous –its diameter was 40’ wide! Walker Partners performed numerous detailed turning analyses to determine the optimal promenade design. We worked closely with the University and its student organizations to understand the parade float sizes. Ultimately, Walker Partners recommended a revised fountain shape (elliptical) to accommodate large vehicles.
The design for this project began in early 2015 and construction was required to be complete by Homecoming (October) 2015. The fountain alone would take several months to construct. Therefore, the design schedule was compressed. Walker Partners accelerated design efforts to submit an early plans package to the City for review. These early plans allowed construction to commence on pavement demolition and utility relocations, thus allowing the design team more time to complete construction documents while getting construction underway. In the end, the project was completed on time.
As it turned out, the ribbon cutting for the promenade occurred on a rain-drenched day. The drainage system performed flawlessly, without any standing water in the promenade or around the fountain, thus allowing pedestrian traffic to flow unhindered.
Walker Partners’ existing relationships with City of Waco utilities staff and franchise utility owners proved indispensable during this project, allowing it to continuously progress throughout design and construction. Through our coordination efforts, there were no major utility conflicts encountered during construction and all schedule deadlines were met.
As is often the case, the project began with a price tag that exceeded the Owner’s budget and value engineering was required. Walker Partners worked closely with the Contractor and the University to prepare alternative designs that would ultimately generate savings for the Owner. Walker Partners’ keen eye for issues allowed for immediate understanding of the overall drainage situation as well as to determine a solution to meet the needs of this particular project, while allowing for future growth on campus.
While the fountain design was technically the responsibility of other consultants, Walker Partners jumped in head first to advise the Owner and other consultants that the original design needed to be modified in order for large vehicles and parade floats to safely drive around the fountain. Walker Partners’ initiative to take responsibility ensured that the project would satisfy the Owner’s objectives.
Walker Partners believes that relationships matter. Combine this with our understanding of the construction industry, and we were able to work side by side with the Contractor during design, bidding, and construction. This meant for timely progress as well as best possible value for the Owner in engineering and construction.
Finally, Walker Partners understands that schedules matter. As always, we took a “whatever it takes” approach to this project to do everything in our power to ensure that the project remained on schedule.