Sidewalk and streetscape improvement project revitalizing historic downtown Hayward

Bob Bauman, City Engineer, City of Hayward, California
Joubin Pakpour, P.E., Project Manager, Berryman & Henigar, Pleasonton, California

An innovative sidewalk and streetscape improvement project is playing a pivotal role in the resurgence of the City of Hayward's historic downtown.

Hayward, population 144,000, is located about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco. One of the principal goals of the $2.8 million project (the city's Downtown Redevelopment Agency is providing funding) is to revitalize a four-block section on B Street, the city's main downtown thoroughfare.

Many of the buildings along the street date back to the early 1920s. One of them, the Green Shutter Building, is being considered for historic status in California. Other businesses housed along B Street include the Medicine Chest, an old-time pharmacy; Buffalo Bill's, a recently opened brewery; an Ace Hardware store; and numerous "mom and pop" retail stores.

The city and Berryman & Henigar worked closely in developing and implementing a series of improvement projects. Key elements included:

  • Civil engineering design
  • Construction phasing
  • Construction plans, specifications and bid documents
  • Construction support
  • Cost estimating
  • Master planning/infrastructure analysis
  • Public financing

The widened sidewalks and street trees make B Street a pleasant place to shop. The benches are strategically placed to encourage socialization and to avoid conflicts with passing pedestrians. Chinese flame trees (Koelreuteria bipinnata) add shade to the seating areas and further define the pedestrian space.

Sidewalk and streetscape improvements included drainage improvements, removal/replacement of trees, replacement of curb and gutter, installation of bus shelters, and a computerized informational kiosk along with abandoning sidewalk cellar access throughout downtown Hayward.

One of the most important program elements was a public outreach program that involved constant communication with city officials and community leaders, and affected businesses to keep all parties fully informed on construction activities to minimize the local economic impact. During the construction process, weekly meetings were held and flyers distributed with the latest news and developments.

The various improvements have not only dramatically improved the aesthetics and ambiance of downtown Hayward, but in many instances, they have modernized the area's infrastructure. While some landscaping had been previously done, a series of Australian willows planted in the early 1970s were crowding out views of shop windows and the sap from the trees constantly dripped onto the sidewalks and nearby buildings. The solution was to remove the willows and plant large Chinese flame trees, which are more "sidewalk-friendly." The new trees were also planted further apart to allow for more window visibility.

Mid-block crossings were located on each block for pedestrian circulation. To increase pedestrian visibility, additional lighting was located at either end to highlight crosswalks and pedestrians to oncoming cars. Existing mature trees were selectively removed to increase the amount of sunlight on the street while some were retained to highlight special areas.

Ornamental streetlighting was already in place, but to add a bit of historic luster, 19th Century-style globe lights were installed on top of the columns that accented a series of mid-block crosswalks.

The original two downtown kiosks were very basic—they were just used for posting bulletins. The new four-sided kiosk has proven extremely popular. Three sides have space for bulletins. A fourth side has a touch screen and is connected via Wi-Fi to City Hall.

When the last streetscape improvement was done in the 1970s, which added angled parking on B Street, excess water accumulated along the curbs and caused drainage problems. Another major improvement now in place is a series of new storm drain connections that include decorative grate drains. This now alleviates any accumulation of water along parking space curbs and gutters.

Lastly, a value-added development of the program has been an increase in downtown businesses utilizing the city's fa‡ade improvement program, which consists primarily of painting and plastering. This has also contributed to sprucing up the area.

A nearby new Albertson's superstore complements the existing buildings downtown. While no economic study has been implemented yet to determine the exact impact, city officials expect that the multi-million dollar improvements program will help bring more business downtown.

Bob Bauman can be reached at (510) 583-4740 or at Robert.Bauman@ci.hayward.ca.us; Joubin Pakpour, P.E., can be reached at (925) 468-7400 or at pakpour@bhiinc.com.