Earlier this month, EPA announced the winners of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. We are excited to report that Normal, Illinois is the recipient of the award in the Civic Places category for their traffic roundabout.
We’ve written before about how the town’s new traffic circle has successfully managed traffic flow at a busy five-way intersection, diverted thousands of gallons of untreated stormwater away from the nearby creek, and become the town center by bringing residents together in an attractive public space. The more recent news is how the traffic roundabout is spurring local economic development with the construction of a multimodal transportation station adjacent to the circle, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Both the transportation hub, which will eventually have high-speed rail service and create an estimated 400-500 new jobs, and the circle take advantage of the town’s existing infrastructure, bus service, and the historic central business district to attract even more residents to the new town center.
The one-third-acre roundabout does much more than move cars. It invites pedestrians with shade trees, benches, lighting, bike parking, green space, and a water feature. People have lunch, read, and play music, and the open space invites community gatherings such as a holiday caroling event. It is the anchor for a community-wide revitalization and is part of Uptown Normal’s LEED-ND Silver recognition.
A popular rails-to-trails conversion, the Constitution Trail, leads to and around the roundabout, helping both to revitalize Normal and to bring people from surrounding areas to Normal’s central district. A new Children’s Discovery Museum on the edge of the roundabout already receives over 140,000 visitors per year, and a hotel and conference enter have recently opened nearby. One indication of the success of the redevelopment is that property values in the district have increased by about 30 percent since 2004.
According to the short video, this traffic circle was almost banned to pedestrians. It’s a good thing town officials fought back.
Read more about the project here, as well as the other winners from the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.
From all of us at City Parks Blog, thanks for reading, commenting and inspiring us this past year with all of your park stories and successes. We look forward to hearing how park development and redevelopment is changing your city. Happy New Year and all the best in 2012