Creating a Cultural Arts Corridor
Celena Shepherd, Communications
May 08, 2023
Downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas, is built within a rich patchwork of woods, streams, and steep hillsides. Recently, the city of nearly 100,000 worked to enhance its natural beauty by creating The Ramble, a unique outdoor destination that preserves nature and celebrates the local arts.
The first phase of that work, the Lower Ramble, opened to the public last fall. The Ramble is a dynamic 50-acre outdoor public space with stunning walkways that lead to nearby cultural institutions. The attraction also features trails, street improvements, and a variety of seating and performance areas.
An Expert Team
The project required top design talent to create a one-of-a-kind community fixture. To kick-off the $11 million project, landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz reached out to Olsson to serve as the project’s structural designer and civil engineer.
“People that live around here really care about the city and the amenities it provides,” said Chris Dougherty, Olsson’s project manager. “It’s extremely rewarding and exciting to work on a project in the city I grew up in that’s revitalizing and bringing a sense of purpose to downtown.”
Connection and Nature Preservation
The first order of business was to create a safe, sustainable, and pedestrian-friendly destination. Preserving the corridor’s lush Fay Jones Woods, creeks, and nature was top of mind.
Olsson’s team evaluated how to create safe walkways while conserving native trees and plants. The solution: winding, elevated walkways where visitors can safely take in the views of streams and wooded hillsides. Our team took extra care to design elements that protect and improve stream ecology of the Tanglewood Branch Creek, which runs year-round through the forest.
Adjacent to Fay Jones Woods, we performed major streetscape improvements and widenings to ensure accessibility and pedestrian-friendly design. The updated streets connect visitors to the entertainment district and key civic institutions like the Fayetteville Public Library, the University of Arkansas, the Walton Arts Center, and the Razorback Greenway trail.
We’re not the only ones who think this project is one-of-a-kind. The Lower Ramble is the first Arkansas project to be certified by the Sustainable SITES Initiative. Projects are selected for implementing nature-based solutions that protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change while conserving resources and improving public health.
This year, the Lower Ramble also received accolades from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arkansas (ACEC/A). Recognized as the year’s top engineering achievement, it received the Grand Conceptor Award. And it took the highest honor in the large project category for special projects.
“We are honored to be recognized by SITES and presented these ACEC awards,” said Peter Nierengarten, the city’s environmental director. “They affirm and distinguish Fayetteville’s dedication to sustainable, beautiful, and functional public landscapes.”
There’s More to Come
The Lower Ramble was the first phase of a larger project. Olsson is excited to also provide engineering services for phase two: the Upper Ramble. This portion will enhance parking, add a civic plaza, and expand bike and walking trails. Olsson is also the prime consultant for the new downtown parking deck in the arts corridor, which replaces existing parking.
Olsson’s Fayetteville office leader Brad Hammond said employees are very proud of the unique project and its importance to the community.
“The Lower Ramble has taken a wooded area and turned it into a true cultural arts corridor where people can come and congregate to enjoy nature and the arts,” Brad said. “We have employees who volunteer and often walk The Ramble, so I know we’re all excited to see what’s to come and how it will benefit the community.”
An environmentally conscious design plus improved accessibility to natural spaces and cultural amenities: that’s a win-win for downtown Fayetteville.