Planning + Design Durham, NC, Style

If you visit downtown Durham, you will hear the sounds of a booming place, with high-rises under construction and the occasional train that continues through to Raleigh or Charlotte. In the summer, you will hear the cheer of the Durham Bulls crowd. Walk into the 110-year old building at E. Chapel Hill Street and you will hear the sound of every day collaboration between Alta planners, landscape architects, and engineers.

Daniel Hedglin #DrawThisTown

In 2014, Alta moved to the heart of downtown, into the historical 1907 Penny Furniture building. In 1966, the building was abandoned and languished until it was purchased and renovated in 2007. The two-story building features an open floor plan that attracted Alta to the space. The old Penny Furniture building is humming with vibrant pin-up sessions, conversations, and collaboration, leading to high-quality design.

Chuck Flink, Matt Hayes, and Jason Reyes (originally Greenways Incorporated) were at the forefront when bicycle, pedestrian, and greenway planning picked up in the 1990's and 2000's in the Carolinas and across the Southeast. Greenways Incorporated merged with Alta Planning + Design in 2011 and became part of a larger network of growing Alta East Coast offices. During that time, cities increasingly were weary of planning and were ready to get things built. This is reflected nationally but also in the Triangle communities’ commitment with Durham’s American Tobacco Trail, Raleigh’s Neuse River Greenway and 100+ miles of greenways, and new plans and designs for separated bikeways across the region. Alta is happy to be assisting these communities in that effort, in our own backyard, where we can help transform the very places that our staff live, work, and play.

Today, Alta planners are updating older plans to reflect newer, innovative design guidance and tools to get more people bicycling and walking. More importantly, our growing engineering and landscape architecture teams are bringing those visions to reality through implementation.

(left) Raleigh, NC, Gorman Street Separated Bike Lane. (center) Hampline Separated Bike Lanes — Memphis, TN. (right) Phase 1 Separated Bike Lanes — Chattanooga, TN
(left) Wolf River Greenway Epping Way. (center) Detroit Downtown Bike/Ped Improvements — Detroit, MI. (right) Niagara Street Reconstruction — Buffalo, NY

Design Studio Approach

A vision plan is better grounded with engineering guidance. A construction document will produce a better sense of place with landscape architects involved. A designed bikeway will function better when it connects and fits the context and goals of the entire community. When we envision and design bikeways, walkways, greenways, and Complete Streets, we are deliberate to combine the disciplines together because every plan, design, and construction document is better when the full team contributes. Our practice is not constrained by the pragmatism of pure engineering, nor by the idealism of pure planning or design. By working together, these seemingly divergent disciplines can learn from and support each other. This integrated design approach provides a seamless transition from plan to implementation, turning community visions into reality.

When Alta engineers review a planner’s concept, they often suggest making it more innovative. The Alta engineering team is not out to crush planners’ and designers’ dreams, but sometimes to suggest how the project can go further outside the box. We evaluate roadways for all users, with a focus on functional operation and safety, and work with each community to determine appropriate trade-offs.

This recipe has led to success with Alta rapidly becoming one of the premier engineering firms in the Southeast, with Complete Streets, bikeways, and greenways built or in design in places like Memphis, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Raleigh, NC, and Durham, NC. Alta is also engineering bikeways and greenways in Detroit, Buffalo, and Arlington, VA. Alta will always stay true to its mission of creating active communities. Alta and its engineering practice will only pursue projects that focus on moving people — you won’t see us designing freeways or major interchanges or widening highways.