Second phase plans to ad­dress traf­fic near Thaden School

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MELISSA GUTE

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF

Con­struc­tion equip­ment sits Satur­day on the site of the Thaden School on South­east C Street in Ben­tonville.

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