Cascade Avenue Streetscape

by | April 1, 2011 0 Urban Design + Planning

Matt Arnold and I recently returned from a three-day trip to Sisters, Oregon, where we presented five different streetscape design concepts for Cascade Avenue at the core of the city’s downtown. Cascade Avenue is also US 20, an ODOT-owned roadway that links Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley via Santiam Pass. The roadway itself needs to be overhauled due to years of hard-hitting use by trucks, RVs, and vehicles with chains and studs, and ODOT and the City agreed that the rebuild presents a great opportunity to enhance Cascade to make it more pedestrian and retail-friendly (while maintaining the highway’s primary function of moving vehicles efficiently).

Cascade Avenue, December 2010

Cascade Avenue, December 2010

Today, the sidewalks on Cascade Avenue are about 6-feet wide. There are places along the street where building awning supports land in the middle of the sidewalk, making it even narrower – particularly in the summer when the city sees a three-fold boost in its population on busy event weekends. The new sidewalks will be widened to 8-feet – still narrow for a downtown Main Street, but an improvement over what is out there today. There will also be curb extensions at the intersections to improve pedestrian safety and provide space for additional amenities.

Our first trip to Sisters was back in December 2010, right after the first big snow of the year. While the snow hid a lot of the existing roadway features, it helped inform our understanding of how the street functions in winter conditions. During the December trip, we explored the area, talked with key stakeholders, and photographed every inch of the Cascade Avenue right-of-way. After our trip, we put our heads together with our project partners at GreenWorks and developed five different design concepts that express Sisters’ unique western character in different ways. To make it easier on ourselves and our future reviewers, we gave each of the streetscape concepts descriptive names: Ski Town, Cascadia, Main Street, Western, and Traditional.

Ski Town

The Ski Town streetscape is modeled on the character of ski towns and mountain resorts throughout the West. This streetscape design celebrates Sisters as a gateway to Central Oregon and as a hub for year-round outdoor recreation. It demonstrates the City’s commitment to high-quality development and sense of place.

The Ski Town streetscape design uses an earthy, textural palette of stone, timber, and metal for custom street furniture (light poles, benches, and recycling cans) to reflect the town’s character. ADA-compliant pavers with 12-inch concrete band in the sidewalk and clustered aspen groves along each block face further accentuate Sisters’ unique character. But these features are also practical: the pavers are easier to maintain in snowy conditions and the clustered aspen groves provide pedestrians respite from the brilliant summer sun.

Ski Town - Overview

Ski Town – Overview

Ski Town Concept - Details

Ski Town Concept – Details


The Cascadia streetscape is a durable and timeless design that integrates a regional materials palette (timber and stone) and climate-adaptive landscaping in deliberate applications along the corridor.

The Cascadia streetscape detailing reinforces the Northwest aesthetic with its choice of materials, site furnishings, and landscaping. The street and sidewalk are both constructed of durable, affordable concrete, but honor the district’s existing architectural character with distinct scoring patterns. Custom-made benches and landscape planters at key intersections as well as carefully-selected street light fixtures reinforce the western mountain character of the region. Street trees (with custom tree grates) provide comfort for pedestrians throughout the summer and paint the corridor with brilliant foliage in the fall and spring.

Cascadia - Overview

Cascadia – Overview

Cascadia - Overview

Cascadia – Overview

Main Street

The Main Street streetscape is a regional favorite. Elements of this time-honored design provide the foundation for Main Streets in Madras, Maupin, Redmond, and Bend. This streetscape design evokes hometown pride by providing a place for people to come together in the community.The Main Street streetscape design uses a concrete sidewalk with a custom paver band to gently knit together all of the different frontage conditions within the corridor. Shady pockets of street trees at the intersections provide a cool place for pedestrians to rest along the streetscape without further narrowing the sidewalk. Traditional site furnishings are durable and economical, yet beautifully complement the city’s western architectural character.

Main Street - Overview

Main Street – Overview

Main Street - Details

Main Street – Details



The Western Streetscape is modeled on Sisters’ 1880s “Western Frontier” architectural theme and tries to balance historic flavor with modern access standards and materials. Colored concrete sidewalks are textured with a plank boardwalk stamp and to emulate a wooden boardwalk and historic lantern style street lights provide energy-efficient lighting throughout the corridor. Street furniture for the Western Streetscape design uses simple materials commonly found during this time period: wood, metal, rope. Wood barrels with custom-made metal caps serve as waste receptacles and simple benches are constructed of wood and metal (and perhaps wagon wheels). There are no street trees in the public right-of-way in order to celebrate the Western building facades.

Western - Overview

Western – Overview

Western - Details

Western – Details



The Traditional Streetscape is a tried and true streetscape design found throughout the Pacific Northwest. In Sisters, this streetscape design would replace and improve what exists on Cascade Avenue today with conventional materials, including asphalt, concrete, and readily-available street furnishings. There would be no street trees in the public right-of-way; this would maximize the width of the sidewalks. This streetscape design is the most economical and straight-forward of all of the design concepts. Its prudent use of materials will improve pedestrian safety and comfort in the corridor but will rely on adjacent development, hanging baskets, banners, and sidewalk planters to provide character and pedestrian interest along the street.

Traditional - Overview

Traditional – Overview

Traditional - Details

Traditional – Details



In March 2011, we toured the streetscape design concepts around to property and business owners along Cascade, the general public, and the City Council and Planning Commission. But perhaps our severest critics came during our “Listening Post” session in the foyer of the City Hall.

Future Cascade streetscape users

Future Cascade streetscape users

The concept they liked best?

Any of them with a hanging flower basket.

What’s Next

We’re currently developing a Preferred Streetscape Concept and Schematic Design for Cascade Avenue. We’ll be back in Sisters in late Spring to present our work to the community and get final direction from the City Council for the Cascade Avenue Streetscape Plan report. You can view all of our work to date on ODOT’s project website.

{By Allison Wildman}

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