Increased greenery, improved signage, monuments at certain intersections and a new district overlay are some of the suggestions the city will consider to improve the approximately 2.5-mile stretch of North Jackson Street that houses the majority of the city’s retail locations.
After working with engineering firm Ragan Smith Associates for several months, the city now has a concrete plan for how to make Tullahoma’s main corridor more attractive to both residents and future business partners.
The North Jackson Streetscape Plan will help the city apply for grants and secure future enhancement projects, while also presenting a more attractive face for residents of and visitors to Tullahoma.
A three-pronged approach
The engineering firm identified three separate areas of North Jackson Street to address: a commercial development, a mixed-use development and the high school/Highland Cemetery Character areas.
According to Ragan Smith, some of the first things that stick out around the corridor include the inconsistent pedestrian routes, multiple unoccupied buildings and vacant lots, too little functional greenery and the lack of a unified streetscape look.
The firm then gave the city some suggestions as to how to correct these issues and more. The ideas were unveiled at a recent meeting of the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Some of the suggestions included adding evergreen hedges as a softened barrier between the parking lot of Northgate Mall and North Jackson Street, as well as adding a multi-use bike and pedestrian trail with marked crosswalks at each of the entrance points to the mall parking lot.
The commercial area has already been established with the many “big box” retail stores and chain restaurants, the firm determined, and will likely continue to flourish in this way. Overall, this section of the corridor needs an “investment into the public infrastructure along the corridor” which will “further encourage upscaling existing commercial establishments and attract more commercial re-development,” the firm said.
The mixed-use area of the street lacks the same amount of “exposure,” the firm noted. Additionally, this section of the street would be “well-suited to a feeling of activity, density and a high level of design.”
The firm noted that mixed use areas are generally “good places to provide medium- to high-density residential units that help meet the need for a diversity of housing opportunities.”
Some of the recommendations the firm gave the city included adding special entry/gateway monuments that clearly designate the area as the main corridor of the city, more ornamental street lighting and highlighting the existing aerospace monument in front of Zaxby’s with “accent plantings.”
The high school portion of the corridor has a slightly different focus, according to the firm. One primary consideration, according to the plans, is to address the “need for controlled access” into certain areas that experience high traffic volumes during peak times, such as before and after school or sporting events at the high school.
Additionally, this area will need to further develop the pedestrian and bicycle networks, the firm noted.
The big picture
For the most part, more landscape work, the rerouting of utility lines underground and cohesive signage were recommended as potential ways the city could unify the streetscape and present a better face to the world.
While the city was presented with a number of ideas on how to improve the city’s main road, not all of the proposed ideas are realistically feasible within the next few years.
Instead, Ragan Smith recommended taking a multi-phase approach, separating the more inexpensive ideas from the larger and more time-consuming and costly ones.
The firm broke up their recommendations into three phases, emphasizing that each phase could be completed in a certain timeframe.
Phase 1 recommendations included things the city might already be seeking grant funding for, like completing the existing sidewalk network or creating accent landscape in certain areas of the city. Other short-term recommendations included encouraging codes enforcement regarding property maintenance, signage and landscape.
Phase 2 recommendations included items that may not be achieved for several years, such as implementing the cohesive signs or markers at key intersections like Cedar Lane/North Jackson Street or Wilson Avenue/North Jackson Street. Also included in the Phase 2 recommendations was encouraging the installation of “evergreen accent shrubs” between parking areas and the main road, such as the Northgate Mall parking lot, or installing canopy trees in “strategic locations.”
Phase 3 recommendations included items that would take significantly more funds and time to complete, such as relocating utility lines underground, installing 10-foot-wide “multi-modal” paths that could accommodate pedestrians or bicycles, implementing a curb-and-gutter drainage system all along the street and looking into installing an activated signalized crossing sign at Tullahoma High School.
The crossing area would necessitate a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, as North Jackson Street is also a U.S. highway.
According to City Administrator Jennifer Moody, the city is not without options to begin implementing immediately.
She told The News she felt the city could immediately start working on some of the aesthetic elements of the proposals.
“I think the most immediate thing that we can do is take design recommendations that are in that plan and start incorporating them into our capital projects that are already in the works,” Moody said.
For instance, Moody said, the city is already in the process of working on a nearly $1 million grant project to fill in the gaps of the city’s sidewalk network along North Jackson Street and along William Northern Boulevard. The plan is still in the environmental planning phase, but Moody said once it proceeds to the design phase, she plans to incorporate some of the recommendations of the streetscape plan into that grant project.
Another immediate step the city can take is having Ragan Smith design an improved intersection like they suggested in the plans.
“What I’m looking at doing is picking an intersection and going ahead and having Ragan Smith design that intersection in a way that meets the recommendations,” she said. Her plan, she added, would be to isolate the city’s key intersections for redesign and then fill in the gaps between those points in order to create that cohesive look the firm alluded to.
“Once we establish those gateway points, we’ll come fill in the middle in between the intersections with more landscaping,” she said.
Selecting the key intersections would be where the city could create the most impact, Moody added.
A final idea the city could act upon was updating the city’s landscaping ordinances, she said. Going through these ordinances to see if there is anything the city could update to match the recommendations would also be completely free to do, she said.
A copy of the presentation given by Ragan Smith to the city board can be found below.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.