June 28, 2022

Project Spotlight: Charleston Heights Community Center & Park

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The Charleston Heights Community Center and Park, situated in the northeast corner of the Las Vegas Valley, is in an established neighborhood. The initial goal for this City of Las Vegas project was to restore a well-used existing park that is beyond its useful service life in an under-served area. The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA) grant funded the initial scope. As additional funds were secured, plans grew to include the addition of a new community center and a complete renovation of the project site.

Unique high-tech community center

The vision for the project was to rejuvenate the park and combine high-tech with recreation. Westwood’s Las Vegas, NV, landscape architecture team was selected to support the City’s goal and overall design team. The Charleston Heights Community Center will offer access to unique technologies not found in any other community center in Nevada.

Creative design solutions on a tight budget

Due to the tech-heavy nature of the community center, the bulk of project fees were allotted to the building design. Westwood’s landscape architecture design team was faced with the challenge of doing more with less for the rehabilitation of the 4-acre park. The team got creative.

According to Westwood’s local planning and landscape architecture service leader, Chris Langham, PLA, the project’s kickoff was highly collaborative. Project stakeholders include the city councilman, nearby middle school students, the championship robotics team from a local high school, and the Las Vegas Metro Police area command. The students were especially engaged and presented wish list items for the project, which included food service by drone to the workstations because, as one of the students remarked, "You know, we're going to get hungry doing all this work."

Through these initial meetings, Westwood’s design team listened and learned. The team worked closely with City staff to accommodate as many of the desired amenities as space and budget allowed. After gathering a comprehensive understanding of the project, including the client’s need for unique integrated technology features, space planning, and exterior gathering spaces, the design team kicked off brainstorming sessions for spatial relationships and circulation.

Design solutions included several circulation concepts that provided passive open turf areas and clear circulation paths diagonally through the park for school-to-neighborhood connections for the kids. The plan addressed safety and security concerns raised by the neighbors and police representatives. To allow for better visibility and police access to the previously secluded, dark corners of the northeast portion of the site, the team proposed complete realignment of the parking lot. Considering that the current one-way parking is adjacent and parallel to the street, the new proposed design pulled the parking further into the site and included a turn-around/drop-off area. The drop-off area allows for open visibility past the building and clear visual corridors into the entire site.

The park's design blends vintage tech with new tech. Ground plane surfaces incorporate old-fashioned gears that overlap and intertwine with other gears, which integrate with the concrete with integral color and a variety of surface finishes. Gear elements and teeth design are cost and maintenance-effective by using one integral color area with three different finish treatments. The gear design weaves into turf areas, planters, the playground area, and the basketball court. The playground equipment requested by the city will incorporate the latest technology to combine physical activity with learning. Regardless of age or physical ability, everyone can participate in the interactive playground.

Grading to protect the environment

As with any renovation project, there were challenges. The functionality of drainage in areas outside of construction was determined to be unacceptable as the project neared 90% completion. Though there were several large, mature existing trees on the site, and tight budget constraints, approval to modify the grade was ultimately provided. The design team worked with the City’s representatives to achieve a balanced resolution that would address the grading concerns while preserving as many of the large, existing, healthy trees as possible. The efforts resulted in protecting an additional 15% of the site's mature trees, which would have otherwise been demolished during this re-grading. This included most of the large trees adjacent to the residential areas.

This project is currently under construction with an anticipated opening later this year. Together, our team delivered a design that successfully provided creative solutions to address existing site issues and give a revitalized amenity to this established neighborhood, all within budget.

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