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Chapter 1: Project Vision
Lanier Parkway, currently known as Glynn Avenue and US 17, runs the length of Brunswickʼs eastern shore and is one of the primary transportation routes that visitors travel during their first trip to the Golden Isles. Recently widened to a six lane facility, it connects the dramatic new Sidney Lanier Bridge at the southern end of the peninsula to Spur 25 at the northern end. This corridor is important to the City because it carries so many visitors through the region annually and because it is so many visitors' first and, in some cases, lasting impression of Brunswick. The visual quality of the corridor and the general nature of development along that corridor must be improved if Brunswick is to succeed in changing perceptions and in encouraging visitors to look further and seek out more of Historic Brunswick. As with each of the catalyst projects, the US 17 corridor has great potential. The vision is to create a “parkway”—Lanier Parkway—along the entire eastern length of the peninsula. The parkway would have a series of landscape characters that vary from south to north but that create a consistent, visually appealing, driving experience all along the eastern edge of the City.
Chapter 2: Site Concept
Outlined below are a summary of the existing conditions along the corridor, a concept for the revitalization and long-term enhancement of the “parkway” and a set of corridor Design Objectives.
A. Existing Conditions
The US 17 corridor is approximately – miles long between the new Sidney Lanier Bridge and Spur 25. It can be divided into three distinct zones: the Natural Zone along the southern end of the corridor; the Gateway Zone in the middle; and the Development Zone at the northern end. Each zone has its own unique character and a corresponding set of opportunities and challenges.
The Natural Zone runs from the bridge to Gloucester Street—the approximate mid-point of the Parkway. This zone is today the most attractive of the three with large areas of green, open space along the western side and expansive views of the Marshes of Glynn along the eastern side. There are very few intersections and even fewer driveway or curb-cuts. This makes for a very attractive driving experience and is the portion of the corridor where the “parkway” concept already largely exists.
The Gateway Zone lies in the middle of the corridor between Gloucester Street and Torras Causeway. In many ways it is a transition zone today and represents a significant opportunity to provide a more positive transition tomorrow. Both major intersections—at Torras Causeway and at Gloucester—represent key opportunities for a significant landscaped “gateway” treatment welcoming visitors both to the region and to Brunswick. Today this zone is characterized by large roads, an under utilized commercial center, fast food restaurants and older, small strip commercial lots. The Torras Causeway intersection is visually much less appealing than the less intensely developed Gloucester intersection which benefits from open views of the Marshes of Glynn and the adjacent public park.
The Development Zone is the northern-most and lies between the Torras Causeway and Spur 25. This is perhaps the most challenging section of the “Parkway” District. Cluttered with the remnants of traditional 50ʼs, 60ʼs and 70ʼs style “strip” highway commercial development the corridor is functionally obsolete, economically distressed and visually unattractive. The corridor is characterized by old motels, service stations, convenience stores, abandoned or underutilized restaurant and retail space and empty industrial sites. Visually dominating the approach to Brunswick, both from the north (Spur 25) and from the Causeway, is the very active Hercules plant with its associated towers, chimneys and stacks.
Gloucester Street is a related, but separate and very important, transportation corridor. It is the major east-west artery that crosses the peninsula connecting downtown with US 17 and the East River with the Marshes of Glynn. It is the main road into downtown and is lined with a range of commercial and institutional uses.
B. Development Concepts
Outlined below are the development concepts recommended for each section of the Parkway.
The Natural Zone: Preserve and protect the existing open and green spaces along the Parkway. Preserve and enhance, where possible, all marsh views, especially the long vistas. Add streetscape style landscape improvements utilizing a more natural, native plant material palette including pines and grasses. Continue to limit or restrict curb cuts and drive ways. Construct a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail along the marsh-side of the Parkway complete with small rest areas, marsh overlooks and interpretive graphics. Create a new southern landscape gateway at 4th Street.
The Gateway Zone: Create a highly landscaped entry, or gateway, zone that welcomes visitors to both Brunswick and St. Simons Island. The opportunity exists to greatly enhance the two median islands at each major intersection. The Visitor Center building itself should be emphasized and the opportunity exists for a significant, high impact landscape to be created in the island surrounding the Center. This same style of landscape treatment should be carried south along the shoulders and median to be punctuated again with seasonal color and a high impact landscape treatment at the Gloucester Street intersection.
The Development Zone: Establish development design standards that include landscape and signage requirements for private development. Provide development incentives—both zoning and financial—for those willing to reinvest in new, or redeveloped, projects within the corridor. Proactively seek investors/buyers for the old paint plant. Create, and or enhance, views of the marsh. Implement landscape and streetscape improvements along the corridor.
One other critical element of the Development Zone Concept is the landscape buffers proposed around the eastern end of the Hercules plant. These buffers should be located on Hercules property and should consist primarily of evergreen plant materials (trees and shrubs) capable of achieving a complete visual screen at eye-level within a 3–5 year period.
Gloucester Street: Gloucester Street provides a critical connection that links Lanier Parkway to downtown and its historic waterfront. As a result, once the “parkway” improvements are underway, the City should turn its attention to Gloucester Street. Gloucester should be enhanced as an important axis with a more formal landscape treatment.
C. Design Objectives
This site consists of the entire eastern edge of Brunswick along US 17 (to be renamed Lanier Parkway) and is divided into three sections: The first is the southern “Natural Zone”, with unobstructed views of the marshes. Here the main design objective is to protect and enhance the marsh edge. The second section is called the “Gateway Zone,” the heavily traveled section between Gloucester Street, the main entrance to Historic Brunswick, and Torras parkway to St Simons Island. Here, the main design objective is to enhance and make more visible the entrance to the city while reducing the existing visual noise and clutter. The third, or northern section is the “Development Zone”, characterized by varied, and often unsightly commercial development on either side. Here the main design objective is to encourage both redevelopment and upgraded development with fewer curb cuts and a better visual environment. The three zones together should present an attractive and easy-to-read eastern edge of Brunswick to the world, with appropriate and coordinated public amenities such as streetscaping, landscaping, bike trails and signage.
MEANS OF ADOPTION AND ADMINISTRATION
The Parkway right-of-way and all properties adjacent to the right-of-way should be included in a new overlay or special public interest zoning district that contains these recommended design guidelines, as well as permitted uses and setback, height and other building envelope characteristics.
Chapter 3: Project Description
This project is really many projects that will be implemented by both the public and private sectors over time. The initiative to improve this corridor must come, however, from the City. The City needs to demonstrate its commitment by first implementing a series of zoning changes and development incentives and then by tackling a series of corridor enhancement projects. These physical improvements would be primarily landscape/streetscape type projects and should be eligible for partial funding through federal transportation funds.
This will be a largely city-driven project and we recommend that the city start the initiative by taking the following actions: