Crafting Connections through Hardscape Design

Mishawaka, IN
March 7, 2024

In 2021, JPR was hired to complete site design, utility design, landscape architecture, and planning services for the new Mishawaka City Hall.

What was formerly a Liberty Mutual Insurance building is now home to the City administration, police department, and business office for Mishawaka Utilities. Located in the heart of downtown, this 92,000-square-foot municipal building serves as the central hub and focal point for the City.

The hardscape design, which spans two City blocks, helps shape the overall look and feel of the site. It provides a strong first impression for anyone who visits and is meant to accentuate the adjacent buildings and streetscapes. With upper and lower plaza areas, it also provides ample space for people to gather and relax.

The hardscape design helps shape the overall look and feel of the site, providing a strong first impression for visitors.

The upper-level plaza, located along Lincolnway, serves as the welcoming face of City Hall. The use of decorative concrete is a standout feature. Not only does it add a touch of elegance and character to the pathways, but it also ensures durability and ease of future maintenance. This decorative concrete serves as both a functional surface for pedestrians and a design element that complements the building. The theme continues into the lower-level plaza and promenade walkway. These areas also incorporate decorative concrete to maintain a cohesive visual throughout the site.

Additionally, a strategic planting design guides pedestrians along the walkways and enhances the aesthetic appeal of the site.

The hardscape design of Mishawaka City Hall spans two city blocks.

The lighting design was another critical element, contributing not only to safety but also to the character of the site. Lighted bollards, parking lights, and pedestrian-scale lighting were thoughtfully placed to guide visitors around the area and create a captivating atmosphere during the evening hours. Aside from safety, the goal of this lighting design was to transform the hardscape into an inviting and visually striking environment, making the Mishawaka City Hall a secure and prominent feature downtown.

One of the main challenges of this project was the significant grade change from Lincolnway to First Street (south of the building to north of the building). To address this, a terraced boulder wall was designed to overcome the substantial elevation difference from the upper to lower levels. While it contributes to the harmony of the overarching design, it also serves a functional role by aiding in the smooth transition of the elevation shift.

Accessibility was prioritized throughout the entire project, ensuring that the site’s hardscape elements are compliant with ADA Standards. This means that individuals of all abilities can navigate the site comfortably and without hindrance. The integration of graded walkways and stair paths strategically located throughout the site is a testament to this.

A terraced boulder wall was designed to overcome the site’s significant grade change.

The project also included the design of a police memorial located at the north end of the lower-level plaza. This space not only pays respect to the profession of policing but also embraces modern design themes to create an inviting atmosphere.

Designed with future gatherings in mind, the memorial plaza features aesthetically pleasing and functional lighting, creative landscaping that breathes life into the space, and a central monument adorned with a unique light source that can send a beam of blue into the night sky.

It’s designed to be a place for reflection, remembrance, and community connection.

The police memorial was designed to foster community connection.

City staff moved into the new facility in September 2022, and the Mishawaka Common Council held its first meeting a few weeks later, on October 3.

The Mishawaka City Hall project stands as an example of urban revitalization, demonstrating the power of innovative design and strategic planning to transform a City’s landscape. With a commitment to accessibility, aesthetics, and community engagement, this project has not only modernized the City’s infrastructure but also helped rekindle a sense of civic pride.

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