|Ripley, Tenn. — When Ripley, Tenn. became one of six Tennessee cities in counties with a population less than 120,000 to receive Courthouse Square Revitalization (CRZ) Pilot project funding, community leaders seized the opportunity to not only revitalize the downtown but also make the downtown area environmentally friendly. |
The project is overseen locally by the Ripley Downtown Redevelopment Corporation (DEVCO), an 11-member non-profit organization tasked to help make Ripley, TN economically prosperous and improve the quality of life for current and future residents and business owners.
**“Revitalization will play an enormous role in the future success of Ripley,” said State Representative Craig Fitzhugh who helped sponsor the CRZ legislation. “Being able to take the necessary steps both large and small to fashion our beautiful downtown into a more environmentally friendly place, that is a real measure of our success in planning for the future.”
**Ripley’s court square has been made more pedestrian friendly. Utilizing traffic calming techniques, engineers created an atmosphere around the area that is inviting to pedestrians by making the area safer for pedestrians. Traffic signals that once allowed vehicles to enter the square without stopping are being changed to stop signs. Not only is this safer for pedestrians but vehicles attempting to back out of a parking space will be better able to predict traffic entering the square. Traffic lanes are being narrowed, while trees and landscape are being increased.
Some walks are being widened into plazas with plenty of seating to encourage people to congregate and socialize. These plazas and all areas of the square will be connected with extra wide crosswalks to make it easy and inviting for a pedestrian to stroll and shop without feeling the need to get in a car and drive to the other side. Shopping without the need to drive from store to store not only reduces carbon footprint but it also promotes a healthier lifestyle.
Planning for the project even took into account often over looked forms of pollution in some of the most unsuspected places. For example, the new street lights installed during the revitalization not only complement the Art Deco architecture of the Lauderdale County Courthouse at the center of the square, but their prismatic glass lamps direct light down for pedestrian safety and to reduce night sky light pollution. Even the lighting in the courthouse itself is 75% more efficient than the previous lighting.
Of course, throughout the construction, silt was contained to prevent sedimentation from entering the storm drain system and ultimately the natural waterways. But not only that, the project increased the amount of landscape area and reduced the amount of impervious pavement to help reduce the amount of storm water that enters the drainage system. The move also increases the amount of water that infiltrates the ground helping to recharge the local aquifer.
By reducing paving and increasing landscape areas, the heat island effect, the increased amount of heat generated by paving and buildings, has also been greatly reduced.
**Ripley’s revitalization has been green at its very core. The renovation of existing buildings is a sustainable concept. Reusing a building not only preserves the cultural history associated with the building, it reduces the demands and environmental impacts that relate to the material’s manufacturing and transport. It also reduces the amount of waste from building demolition that goes to landfills. Ripley has renovated 44 of its downtown buildings.
At the heart of the renovation is the county courthouse at center stage. The uniqueness of the Lauderdale County Courthouse’s architecture made its renovation both inside and out both culturally significant and sensitive.
The amount of energy saved by having new efficient windows, doors and HVAC system will reduce the building’s energy consumption by 35%. Improvement in energy efficiency has come by replacing old single pane windows with better performing dual pane insulating glass.
Window profiles replicate the art deco style of those being replaced, so that the architectural integrity of the historic building is not compromised. The Marvin Windows and Doors used in revitalizing the downtown area were manufactured at Marvin’s Ripley facility contribute to the local economy and reduce environmental impact by reducing truck rolls on shipping. The replacement windows with insulating glass have reduced air and water infiltration, reducing the amount of energy and costs to run the furnace or air conditioning to compensate.
DEVCO also considered everything from development densities to low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) sealants for pavement expansion joints. It was in the small details like using locally quarried stone and adding canopies and awnings to storefronts to reduce heat gain that great strides in reducing the areas carbon foot can be seen.
“We take great pride in what we have been able to accomplish and what we will continue to accomplish in Ripley,” said Perry Williams, DEVCO’s Director. “It is when we sat down and considered what we were doing in light of making the revitalization area a green zone that we became even more inspired about the opportunity we had been given.”
Ripley does not plan to rest on its laurels having become Tennessee’s first green downtown. Discussions are held on a regular basis about what can be done to become more sustainable and to further reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Local property owners are beginning to join DEVCO’s efforts in making the area even more environmentally friendly. Some have discussed the possibility of adding solar panels to their buildings to at least offset some of their need for tradition fuel sources.