St. Stephen’s Plaza, located on Longmont's Main Street in the center of the city's developing creative district, is in a prime position to become a creative hub for Longmont, but it hasn't for a variety of reasons.
Some of the main obstacles: the plaza's current design lacks "stay and gather" spaces and the space feels cold and uninviting during the winter.
Students in CU Boulder's Spring 2020 Longmont Praxis Studio–all seniors and landscape architecture majors– said the area could be transformed to an artistic space where people gather and attend musical or other events and would benefit by planting plants native to Colorado that thrive in urban environments. During the class, teams of four to five students developed three design solutions (see below) for the plaza.
How the project started
The university-city partnership was organized through CEDaR's Community Design Workshop program, which creates opportunities for CU Boulder students and faculty to take part in community projects. Community Design Workshops begin with a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the city and the university, and the MoUs guide classes, studios and other student and faculty research that address a priority defined by the community, said Brian Muller, CEDaR's director.
Longmont's defined priority is the revitalization of the old downtown area, he said. The project began in spring 2019 with a studio, linked seminar and several internships where students generated design interventions for enhancing Longmont's plazas, breezeways, alleyways and creative businesses in the downtown area, creating the foundation for the spring 2020 studio for redesign of St. Stephens Plaza under the supervision of Jesse Van Horne, ENVD lecturer, and submission of a formal proposal currently under consideration by the Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA).
"Many aspects of the students' design work were appealing to LDDA, but because of the pandemic the project has been put on hold," Van Horne said.
Proposed redesigns of St. Stephen's Plaza include:
Art Envisioned by Riley Chustz, Camden Hocker, McKinley Parks, Logan Phelps and Miles Shapleigh, incorporates art into the functional aspects of the site in a way that coincides with the creative district’s identity and facilitates larger gatherings and events. It also offers creates an environment more suited to hosting events and large gatherings, as well as individuals and small groups. These additions, along with a careful selection of plants, will make the space more inviting and lively throughout the day and year, the student group said.
Rib Rock Plaza by Stephen Cannon, Tori Civitello, Ayushi Patel and Ian Fuller, echos the variety of Colorado’s naturalistic and novel environments, as well as creates an opportunity to provide a passive educational experience where users can see the geological layers beneath them and begin to understand the forces that created the area. A fountain at the center of the plaza features water that cascades over the layers before collecting into a reflection pool. Under this design, users can walk through the plaza, sit and enjoy the sound of flowing water that masks some of the traffic sounds or warm up next to fire pits along the edge of the fountain. Other users can climb up into the rock layers and dive into the planted landscape that grows from the fountain to follow the water to its source.
Passage by Kate Burgess, Tiffany Filatov, Gabe Onderdonk and Alec Stolz, opens up the sight lines from Main Street to the back alley to allow a safe path from the pedestrian mall to the parking lot; adds seating on the north side of the site to allow groups to gather and linger; and replaces the broken fountain with a circular fire pit to encourage families and groups to soak up the warmth on a cold day. The plan includes movable seating and two potential stage areas for different programming.