Second phase plans to address traffic near Thaden School
BENTONVILLE — Plans for the second phase of the Thaden School campus take steps to address traffic, but it’s hard to know exactly how traffic will affect the area until the school is operational, a city leader said Friday.
The Thaden School, a private middle and high school backed by the Walton Family Foundation, plans to open in August with up to 120 students in grades seven and nine, and grow over the next four years to serve up to 645 students in grades six through 12.
The campus will consist of 125,000 square feet in four main buildings and be built in three phases over three years.
The school will operate its first year with mobile
classrooms on the east side of Southeast C Street.
How traffic was to be handled for the completed campus — which will be on both sides of Southeast C Street — was a main concern for community members and planning commissioners alike when commissioners approved the conditional-use permit for the school in January.
Officials know the school will increase traffic, but the school and city staff are doing everything possible to create a safe and efficient transportation environment
around the campus, said Troy Galloway, community and economic development director.
Those efforts include infrastructure improvements, especially to intersections, and equipping the campus with features such as a proper drop-off and pick-up lane.
“The short answer is that we really don’t know until the school is there and fully operational,” Galloway said about how effective the measures will be.
Galloway said it’s hard to predict the traffic patterns parents will try to find in an effort to make their routes quicker and easier.
One concern is around the intersection of Southeast C and Southeast Eighth streets.
A signal will be installed at that intersection as part of the Eighth Street Improvement Project, and a pedestrian crossing with flashing red lights also will be constructed, according to design plans. A turn lane will be added to northbound Southeast C Street as well.
The Eighth Street Improvement Project will widen Eighth Street from two to four lanes from Moberly Lane to Southwest I Street.
There will be two curb cuts on the west side of Southeast C Street for the entrance and exit of the 400-foot student drop-off and pick-up lane, which project developers have dubbed “The Supershed.” Traffic will enter from the north and exit at the south.
Those exiting the Supershed will have the option to turn north or south again on Southeast C Street, Galloway said.
A 10-foot-wide sidewalk will run between the road and car lane. A crosswalk with warning lights will be installed halfway between the two curb cuts, documents show.
Administration and employee parking will be accessed from Southeast 10th Street on the south side of the campus. There will be 91 onand-off street parking spaces as well as multiple bike racks throughout the campus.
Street improvements also will be made to South Main, Southeast 10th and Southeast C streets in addition to the improvements that will be made when Eighth Street is widened.
The Planning Commission approved phase two design plans Tuesday after questioning project representatives about site drainage and a requested waiver to the city’s design standards. It approved the plans for phase one in March.
“It’s a low-impact development design where we’re decentralizing the stormwater,” said Brahm Driver, civil engineer with Ecological Design Group, explaining water will be treated through a rain garden system and the campus will maintain the existing drainage patterns.
There will also be a detention pond that will function as an educational component for the school, he added.
Commissioners also expressed concern about a waiver request that would exempt the performing arts building from meeting the amount of windows required as it will be located on the prominent corner of South Main Street and Southeast Eighth Street.
A rendering shows the north side of the building as all windows. However, most of the east side is solid siding with a few 10-foot-tall panels that will “simulate the scale of a glass retail frontage,” according to Christian Rodrequez, project architect with Eskew+Dumez+Ripple.
“To achieve the appropriate level of acoustical isolation required for theaters, the window area is limited,” he wrote in memo explaining the waiver requests.
That side of the building is one of the main features people will see coming into downtown on South Main Street and needs to look appealing, commissioners said.
Commissioner Greg Matteri said he had a property owner on the west side of South Main Street call him expressing concern about the appearance of the solid siding on the building’s east side.
“I’m not just keen on the lack of storefront,” he said. “That is a major corridor into downtown. Are we doing everything we can to soften that?”
Project representatives explained the landscaping plan will help with the aesthetics.
“It’s a good way to soften that up for the public,” Commissioner Scott Eccleston said.
Phase one, 15 acres on the east side of Southeast C Street, is already under construction. It will include 12 mobile classrooms, a 250-foot drop-off and pick-up lane as well as 136 parking spaces.
Construction equipment sits Saturday on the site of the Thaden School on Southeast C Street in Bentonville.