Evansville Downtown Riverfront
The $10 million Downtown Esplanade and Dress Plaza project section, shown here, stabilized the aging one-third mile long Ohio River flood protection levee and transformed it from a brutally bleak place to a place of civic pride. Its street level esplanade is a bicycle and pedestrian way that accesses multiple projecting river overlooks and a timeline railing edge of seventy-two stainless steel interpretive plaques. Dramatic lighting beacons in rhythmic bay spacing are a modern foil to the otherwise historically themed downtown. The overlooks break through the levee rail barrier (by developing openings with removable flood panels) to access new river viewing platforms. The promenade plaques create an outdoor classroom chronicling the evolution of the Ohio River, and this place on it, from glacial formation to regional city on a major transportation system.
The amphitheater-style tiered seating for 5000 cascades down from the overlooks to Dress Plaza. The plaza, the site of former riverfront wharves, now hosts fireworks, world-class hydroplane racing and a public access boat ramp. The award-winning design has created a new synergy and vitality for downtown, while providing connectivity between downtown and the adjacent museum district, and to the developing greenway system's parks and neighborhoods.The City has reclaimed its waterfront while moving closer to its dream of becoming a “City within a Park“.
The downtown riverfront was identified in the Storrow Kinsella-authored Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage Master Plan as the future centerpiece of the proposed city-encircling greenway system. That plan created a vision of the city and its Ohio River frontage that informed subsequent negotiations with contenders for a coveted Riverboat Gaming license for a near-downtown site. The selected licensee based its proposal on the greenway plan and committed funds for a significant part of the plan's implementation. Storrow Kinsella was retained as master planner and lead designer for five phased sections of the greenway-based riverfront improvements, with the central esplanade and Dress Plaza becoming the lead project. Additional sections up and downriver from the Esplanade followed based on multiple funding mechanisms including one of the first Transportation Enhancement Grants in Indiana.
The strategic concept: create a compelling vision of the possible, infuse it with infrastructure system and quality of life synergies, and structure the vision for phased implementation through adaptation to emerging opportunities.