In downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, everything’s coming up red. And brown. And beige. And a host of other colors in between — the clay brick pavers in a full range of colors in walkways and patios; the face brick in the vertical walls of newly built apartment buildings and breweries.
Much of it, as it turns out, is from around here. Much of the clay pavers and face brick was manufactured just down Battleground Avenue and US 220 North, 25 or so miles through the North Carolina countryside, at Pine Hall Brick Company’s plants in Madison, North Carolina.
Arguably, the building boom in downtown Greensboro began in earnest with the 2005 opening of Yadkin Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins baseball team.
The stadium of red brick and wide concourses is intentionally reminiscent of classic open-air ballparks of the past. If you were to stand at home plate and walk to the outfield, you would see the site where a former car dealership’s building was demolished and in its place, the four-story Greenway at Stadium Park apartments went up.
There and across the street at Greenway at Fisher Park Apartments, the tenants are mostly young professionals and students at nearby universities, many of whom can’t recall the flight from downtown to outlying areas and the shuttered buildings which were left in their place.
“All of downtown is moving in the right direction, which is good to see.”
Unlike more conventional neighborhoods, these new residents can leave their homes, walk a block and attend a ball game; or walk a block in another direction and pull up a stool at Joymongers, an innovative brewery that in good weather throws open garage doors and brings the outside indoors.
Dean Schimmenti, an architect for Bradley and Ball, worked on the design of Greenway at Stadium Park, with the main idea being to echo, in a visual sense, the classic lines and architecture of the ballpark.
The deep, reddish brown brick exterior was purposefully selected for the complex and for the Greenway at Fisher Park across the street. Both projects were designed to complement the brick at the ballpark and to look as though they had been there for years.
“On that project, we have an amenities area on the first floor that opens up to a pool and outdoor cabana and on the fourth floor, we have a cantilevered floor and lounge that overlooks the baseball field,” says Schimmenti.
Architect Eric Bradley, who is a partner in Bradley and Ball, said the design’s main theme was to serve as a transition area between downtown and Fisher Park, a 1920s-era neighborhood with Craftsman-style bungalows and brick apartment buildings, a mix of restored single-family homes and rental properties, many occupied by college students.
“We really took our cues, both from the red brick at the ballpark and the traditional homes in Fisher Park,” says Bradley. “It really is for people who live, work and play downtown. If I were single and 30 years younger, that’s where I would like to live.”
While the apartments near the ballpark are where many live, Joymongers is where many go to have fun. Mandy Clift, an architect with J. Hyatt Hammond says that in addition to fitting in with the neighborhood and looking as though it had been there forever, the site itself helped the design team make its decisions as to how the project would finally appear.
“It really had a lot to do with the siting of the building and the patios, because the one side where the street is closed will be a City of Greensboro park in the future,” says Clift. “We also knew we would have a lot of art and signage on that side of the building and we put in recessed areas that would frame that art and that would mimic the opening of those garage doors.”
“We really took our cues, both from the red brick at the ballpark and the traditional homes in Fisher Park.”
The patio, which was designed to provide access to food trucks, the awning that has a unique angle to it, the garage doors which provide a way for a band to play inside and for the audience outside to be a part of it, all relate not only to the design but to the experience, the architect said.
“This is authentic in that it has an Old World feel to it, the brick was tumbled and has broken edges, meaning that it has more character and looks like an older brick,” says Clift.
Clift notes that the placement of an open air brewery just off a planned Downtown Greenway even provides a public service: If you walk, run or bicycle, especially on a summer evening in North Carolina, you gotta have a place to stop and rehydrate.
“Whenever I was younger, I didn’t come downtown to hang out, to shop or to eat,” says Clift. “I am glad to see it evolving the way it is.”
Bradley agreed. Both these projects – and others in downtown Greensboro – are a sign that downtown is on its way back.
“All of downtown is moving in the right direction, which is good to see,” says Bradley. “I have lived here long enough to remember that downtown is someplace where you didn’t go unless you worked there.”
Two Pine Hall Brick projects were honored in the 2016 Bricks In Architecture competition, sponsored by the Brick Industry Association, an industry trade group.
The Kester International Promenade at High Point University in High Point, NC won a Bronze Award in the Higher Education category. The goal was to replace aging concrete sidewalks with new brick pavers that allowed for better flow of foot traffic, while maintaining the beauty of the surroundings. The project specifically avoided mature trees to leave them undisturbed.
In addition, the pavers were used to provide a better entry to the buildings and in an almost subliminal way, to convey the importance of the college experience to students and faculty who were entering the buildings.
The second winner was the Cobb and Douglass County Behavioral Health Center in Marietta, GA, that won a Bronze Award in the Health Care Facilities category.
The Center is intended to ensure the availability of services to those individuals struggling with developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues, irrespective of their financial circumstances. So the overall design intent was to create a facility that did not project an institutional feel. Through the use of multiple brick colors and patterns, the design created a facility that not only doesn’t look like an institution, but does look like a Class A office building.
Brick was chosen because the goal was to have a building that has a long life span, because of brick’s reputation for durability, limited maintenance and cost effectiveness.
The Center is a two-story, 43,042 square-foot facility that has treatment areas and administrative offices on the first floor and shell space on the second floor, for future expansion. It provides stabilization and walk-in services for adults experiencing behavioral healthcare issues. The facility houses a 24-bed stabilization unit with four additional transition beds, a 23-hour observation level program and a clinically staffed walk-in center that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Bronze Award for the Kester International Promenade at High Point University recognized LKC Engineering, pllc, and Robert Hayter of Aberdeen, NC, builders Shelco LLC of Winston-Salem and Toby Hill, along with Pine Hall Brick as manufacturer. Also recognized were masonry contractor PDC Hardscapes of Greensboro, NC and grading contractor Smith and Jennings of High Point, NC.
The Bronze Award for the Cobb and Douglass County Behavioral Health Center recognized Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects and Anthony Turpin of Alpharetta, GA, jB+a Landscape Architecture and Jon Benson of Atlanta, and Batson Cook Builders of Atlanta. Pine Hall Brick Company was recognized as the main brick manufacturer and Forterra Brick of Charlotte was cited as the secondary brick manufacturer. Also recognized were brick distributor, North Georgia Brick Company of Cumming, GA, and masonry contractor, Bibler Masonry of Roswell, GA.
If you look hard enough at Center Street in downtown Goldsboro, NC, you can see the past and the future at the same time.
The past was the railroad, which is the reason the town is there.
The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was completed in the 1840s. The intersection of the rail line and New Bern Road sparked construction of a hotel, which in turn led to the growth of a community around it. It was first called Goldsborough’s Junction and was named after Matthew Goldsborough, an assistant chief engineer with the railroad line. Railroad connectors to Charlotte and Beaufort helped grow the town even more. During the Civil War, the railroad was seen as vital to Confederate interests and not surprisingly, was often the target of Union attacks intended to cut supply lines.
That railroad is why the right of way on Center Street in downtown Goldsboro is 140 feet wide. The width was to accommodate railroad tracks that ran down the center of the street until they were removed in the 1920s. Even though Center Street is seen as the historic heart of both the downtown district and the city itself, the design – including four rows of angled parking, a narrow concrete median and 12’ sidewalks – meant that almost all of the 140 foot right of way was under pavement of one kind or another. And that meant, also, that downtown began to struggle as businesses and shoppers alike fled the cluttered center city for strip shopping centers and office buildings on the outskirts of town.
What was needed was to find a way to get people back downtown.
Enter Allison Platt.
Platt, a landscape architect and urban designer, prepared the master plan which recommended streetscape improvements as a high priority for downtown revitalization.
Platt’s design called for widening and redesigning the brick sidewalks from 12′ to 17′ and providing a wider landscaped median on each block. Roundabouts were added at each intersection to allow removal of traffic lights and arms and improve both pedestrian and vehicle safety. Other elements that added to the appeal of the street included wifi service and speakers mounted on new streetlights that allow music to be piped to the street. Bike lanes and bike racks were added throughout the project.
Two different cross-sections of the street were designed. Sections with the highest concentration of existing retail businesses have two rows of angled parking. Sections with less retail have four rows of parallel parking and a wider median. This design allows more parking where it is needed and at the same time, wider medians on other blocks to provide space for festivals, farmer’s markets and other community activities.
To pick up on existing colors and textures of the surrounding red clay brick buildings, sidewalks and median parks use three colors of Pine Hall Brick clay pavers, with a banded pattern on the sidewalks and varied patterns utilizing the same three colors in the median parks to add visual interest. The pavers are purposefully set on a sand base, which means that when underground utilities need repair, the pavers can be taken out and set to one side, the work can be done and the pavers can be replaced, without damaging the sidewalk or changing its appearance.
In addition to benches and tables throughout the project, brick seat walls enclose the median parks and accommodate additional seating during public events such as parades and festivals.
Green building principles were used throughout the project. The clay pavers themselves are green, in that they are made out of readily available shale and water, do not change color over time and are durable enough to last forever.
In addition to the hardscape installation, new trees were introduced, including Bosque Elms on the sidewalk to maximize views to storefronts, and Willow Oaks in the median to eventually provide a high shady canopy in the warm summer months.
Other examples of green construction include the elimination of pavement, therefore improving storm drainage and increasing water entering the ground, the inclusion of continuous structural soil under the sidewalks to help the trees grow, additional pedestrian space and new bike lanes.
The installation hasn’t been in place that long (Phase One in November 2012, Phase Two in November, 2015), but it has already won awards from the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association and the North Carolina Main Street program. And its early success has helped jumpstart the project: based in part on Phase One, the City of Goldsboro won a $10 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant that helped fund Phase Two.
More importantly, people are indeed coming back. The December, 2015 Lights Up! dedication brought an estimated (and record-breaking) 5,000 people downtown. In all, 49 new businesses have opened on or near Center Street and 23 commercial buildings are in the process of rehabilitation since Phase One began, including new opportunities for second-floor residential development.
Across America, this is the season for college commencements. Each is different and yet, each is the same. Parents and siblings come in. Hundreds are in matching caps and gowns, forming lines that are not too far removed from the single-file, no-pushing lines they used to form in second grade as they walked obediently outside for a fire drill or to the cafeteria for lunch.
But this is different. For most, it’s the beginning of adulthood – careers, home purchases, families. Perhaps decades from now, these new graduates will be seated in those same chairs on that same sun-washed lawn, watching their own children walk up, take their diploma, shake hands with the college president , turn and smile.
We’re betting that a lot of what these graduates see when they are firmly in middle age—and watching a graduation line march, as opposed to marching themselves—will look a lot like it does today. We know, because we at Pine Hall Brick Company have been a big part of scores of college campuses for decades, playing a role that’s almost subliminal.
Those who design buildings will tell you that the design of a particular place will depend on its use. A warehouse will look different from a church. An office building will look different from a fast-food restaurant. And a college will look, well, like a college.
Conventional, residential, four-year colleges have a look and feel all their own. The residence halls, classroom buildings, dining halls and recreation centers tend toward similarities at every campus: classic architecture, usually of red brick. Fountains (usually hit at 3 a.m. at least once a semester by detergent-wielding students.) A bell tower that either congratulates you for getting there on time or chides you several times a day for running late. And everywhere, from the University of North Carolina to the University of Southern California, there are pathways of Pine Hall Brick clay pavers, close in next to buildings or across a quad of oaks.
Sometimes, they allow students to walk two abreast; others have bicycle lanes of clay pavers running alongside. In some places, clay pavers have been enlarged into a plaza, where they have been engraved with the names of those long graduated, who contributed money to their alma mater.
We’ve written often about our partnerships with institutions of higher education. We’re at East Carolina University, High Point University, Furman University, Auburn University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Pennsylvania, Wake Forest University, Converse College, the University of North Caroina at Charlotte, Champlain College, North Carolina State University and Flagler College.
And there are scores of others; too many to list.
We had occasion not too long ago to chat with a facilities manager at a leading university. He told us that they decided on a clay paver walkway up to campus buildings because it sent a message that students were entering a place that needed to be taken seriously, a place where it was their privilege to be, a place where they needed to pay attention and learn how to build a life for themselves and their communities. Out of all the places that they would visit, this was a place where they needed to be fully engaged and authentic.
Congratulations , then, to the Class of 2016. Your achievements are real; your potential has been demonstrated; and now, the real challenges begin.
You’ll be back here, on a future spring afternoon, waiting for your children to graduate. And so will we.
At East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, the modern-day slogan is Tomorrow Starts Here.
Looking toward the future is nothing new in this place, which began as a teacher’s college in 1907 and which since then has grown into the third largest university in North Carolina, with renowned programs in the arts, sciences, business and medicine.
Accordingly, an investment in tomorrow in the form of clay paver walkways and bicycle paths – Founder’s Walk – has brought a unifying design element to the historic campus mall, to what was once a disjointed collection of vehicle alleyways and parking lots.
Raleigh, NC-based landscape architecture firm ColeJenest & Stone said that the challenge was to provide a pedestrian – and bicycle-friendly – environment to the main part of campus. The goal was to convert the aging asphalt surface parking into a multi-use path.
The pattern creates pedestrian and bicycle zones in the 18-foot-wide path. Pine Hall Brick Company pavers in a basketweave pattern were used to define the 10-foot pedestrian zone, with a herringbone pattern for the bicycle lanes. Dark accent chevrons that point the way to the correct direction of travel were used in the bicycle lanes.
Color really makes his project work! Pine Hall Brick colors used in the project, include:
Edges are English Edge Dark Accent.
Walkway is English Edge Full Range and Pathway Full Range.
Chevrons in bicycle path are English Edge Autumn.
Bike path itself is English Edge Georgian Buff.
The rich tones of the clay pavers complement the historic architecture surrounding the mall and contributes to the collegiate atmosphere as it weaves past old-growth trees. The craftsmanship expressed in the project has led to a campus icon that reinforces the school’s brand.
The usefulness of the pavers extended well beyond aesthetics. The pavers proved themselves durable enough to withstand both 80,000 pound emergency vehicles and event traffic. And the system is at once both authentic and green in the following ways:
· It’s a locally sourced material, which reduces fuel consumption for product delivery.
· It encourages pedestrian and bicycle transportation, which reduces dependence on automobiles on campus.
· It supports a sustainable stormwater management system that directs runoff to landscape areas planted with native and adapted species.
And tomorrow? More is on the way, as the Founders Walk project is the first step in a planned network that will link all campus neighborhoods.
Spring is blooming in central North Carolina, on city street, country road and college campus alike.
High Point University isn’t far from the Pine Hall Brick Company corporate headquarters in Winston-Salem. As this semester winds down and as graduation plans blossom, this place is awash in purple blooms everywhere you look.
Here, students walk to class amidst red brick buildings that were designed with Georgian architecture influences. There are wide paths and plazas made of clay pavers in colors and textures that complement the buildings. There are 24 separate gardens and an arboretum. The campus is home to 2,500 different kinds of plants and 350 separate kinds of trees.
Others have taken notice: High Point University was recently named as a Tree Campus USA for the seventh consecutive year, one of eight four-year colleges and universities in North Carolina to earn this honor.
Now consider this. Much of this is new. More is on the way. And all of it is intentional.
“Visitors to HPU often remark that campus feels entrepreneurial or innovative,” says Dr. Nido Qubein, president of High Point University. “There’s no doubt that the campus spirit is energetic, engaging and poised to ignite purposeful action. The inspiring environment at HPU is designed, at its core, to encourage students to connect, create and collaborate.”
High Point University’s campus – its gardens, its landscapes, its classroom buildings and its operations—reflects a philosophy and a design that is intentional and proactive at the same time.
The idea? Success has a lot to do with your surroundings and High Point University takes an active role in the success of its students.
“People rise to the level of the environment in which they live,” says Qubein. “Whether students are in class, in their residence hall, on the Kester International Promenade that’s lined with inspirational quotes and sculptures of historical figures, or in one of the library learning common spaces throughout campus, students are consistently surrounded by excellence. They are engaged in every aspect of campus life.”
Much of the environment where students at High Point University live, work and play is made up of new plazas, walkways and buildings, all made of native North Carolina clay, as solid and as durable as the values inherent in the educational process that takes place there.
The college began in the 1920s. By 2005, the university was centered on a 92-acre landlocked campus with a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,450, an operating budget of $38 million and 108 faculty members. Things have changed. Since then:
- Campus size has increased 346 percent, from 92 acres to 410 acres, with building space increasing by 441 percent, from 740,000 to 4 million square feet.
- Traditional student enrollment is up by 203 percent, from 1,450 to 4,400, while fulltime faculty has increased by 156 percent, from 108 to 277.
- The budget has increased by 663 percent, from $38 million to $290 million.
Intentional and proactive
Steve Potter, who is vice president for facilities and auxiliary operations, says that two projects – the Promenade and the Student Success Building – are both examples of efforts to directly address the idea of encouraging success through landscaping and hardscaping design.
The Promenade was originally a High Point city street, Montlieu Avenue. In its original incarnation, four sidewalks ran the length of it, an airport runway of sorts to academic buildings.
“We redesigned the whole space so that it wasn’t so linear and it created a park atmosphere,” says Potter. “We kept two linear elements going down it. We really wanted to beautify the space using clay pavers instead of concrete.”
The clay pavers specified were English Edge Full Range and the buildings were built of HPU Blend, a custom color. Both were made by Pine Hall Brick Company.
“It’s more of a cleaner look than you have with concrete,” says Potter. “It is richer, a more sophisticated look. It’s a traditional color but we have been using different fields for different seating areas which is something we haven’t done in the past.”
Upcoming will be new facilities for health sciences, which will house new graduate programs for physician assistants and pharmacists. Like the rest of the campus, the buildings are planned with Georgian architecture in mind and will be built of HPU Blend red brick, with clay paver pathways of the same material.
“We are looking to create an inspiring environment for our students,” says Potter. “It’s not just about the brick and the landscaping and the arboretum, it is about pulling all of that together. We want them to strive for the best and so that’s why we put in the best. We want to use authentic products, to be the best in everything we do and we feel like these are the best products for the results we want.”
For Ridgely Dubel, the red-brick Colonial Revival house that she and her husband spotted in their neighborhood in Asheville, NC was love at first sight.
As long-time fans of all things made of North Carolina clay brick, we can certainly see what she means.
The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times reported recently that the couple bought the century-old house and decided to share it. It was turned it into a boutique hotel. Inside, exposed brick walls and polished wood floors are the backdrop to a relaxing stay. Outside,walkways and a large brick patio made of Pine Hall Brick Company pavers picks up the accent colors and textures from the house itself. Tables and chairs surround a large wood-burning fireplace made of stone – a gathering place fit for a chilly evening in western North Carolina.
As interesting as the Bunn House is these days, the way it began is interesting in and of itself. Albert Bunn, who with his wife and three children immigrated from England, was a brick maker. Bunn not only built the house in 1905, he made the bricks from which the house was built.
And as brick makers ourselves, we are proud and honored to add our modern-day clay pavers to Mr. Bunn’s efforts from so long ago.
That’s because our bricks will still be there in 100 years, the same way his are.
Read more about the Bunn House here.