Ripley Court Square Revitalization
The Master Plan for Downtown Ripley provided improvements centered on the safety and enhanced shopping experience for pedestrians. Wide crosswalks and plazas created an environment where pedestrians are primary users and vehicles are secondary. Large expanses of roadways were reduced to provide spaces for people to congregate, defined by areas of trees, landscape, and site furnishings. An interactive laminar fountain and outdoor amphitheater provide the downtown with outdoor activities that support retailers and keep the square active with people.
The 1930s architecture of the Lauderdale County Courthouse gave the landscape architects the opportunity to integrate decorative paving and details that are uncommon to traditional colonial courthouse squares. Similar to the bold borders with busy patterns seen in Art Deco architecture, the designers chose exposed black limestone aggregate bands and borders around random patterned crab orchard stone (a Tennessee native stone) for the walkways surrounding the courthouse. The sidewalks throughout the square also feature black limestone borders, broom finish panels, and square cut crab orchard stone accents. The yellows, pinks, and tans of the crab orchard stone complement the blond brick and multi-tone limestone of the courthouse. The details of the handrails and site furnishing throughout the square repeat patterns seen in the mullions of the courthouse’s windows and doors. Lastly, to further the continuity between the pedestrian spaces and the buildings, the courthouse lights were changed to match the lighting fixtures that the designers had chosen throughout the site.
A2H’s multidiscipline team of designers within its firm included architects, landscape architects, structural, electrical, and civil engineers. The Master Plan and implementation of the entire downtown revitalization have resulted in a courthouse square that gives pedestrians an experience that is totally unique and unlike any other downtown in the Southeast.
The focus was on improving walkability between the surrounding businesses and creating a more economically prosperous community.
The Master Plan was instrumental to the city’s award of millions of dollars in state and federal grants to fund multiple phases of construction. Among the grants were one Community Facilities grant, three Transportation Enhancement grants, one Courthouse Revitalization Zone grant, and two Rural Business Development Grants.
The buildings and pedestrian spaces throughout the square have a strong relationship and continuity due to careful selection of site furnishings, lighting, and building details. Examples include the new light posts along the streets and canopy columns on storefronts.
A2H’s architects and landscape architects closely coordinated to give a fresh look to the buildings’ detailing.
Many changes were made to limit vehicular traffic and enhance the pedestrian experience in the courthouse square. Traffic signals were replaced with stop signs and lanes were narrowed to increase pedestrian safety and accessibility. Large landscape islands were placed to reduce the heat island effect in previously paved areas.
The outdoor amphitheater offers residents a venue for a wide range of productions and special events. The faux façade is reminiscent of an old downtown theater.
The revitalized courthouse square creates opportunities for residents to come together, from festivals like the annual Ripley Tomato Festival and Main Streets Art Festival to free live music concerts at the amphitheater. As a result, more businesses have opened and existing ones have extended their hours of operation to accommodate the around-the-clock activities. Ripley’s enhancements give the city a distinct identity and offer patrons an experience unlike any other downtown in the Southeast.