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Water Features Add Sparkle To Home Builder's Vision Of New Urbanism Concept


Photo courtesy of Larry Duffy, Whittaker Homes, St. Charles, Missouri.

Now 15 Percent Complete, Whittaker’s New Town Development Devotes 80 Acres To Scenic Lakes And Canal

Sometimes, finding exactly what you need can be as simple as looking in your own backyard. At least that was the case for Greg Whittaker, president of Whittaker Homes, one of Missouri’s largest home builders, when he began searching for the right partner to provide dramatic water features for New Town, a dream community planned for St. Charles, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

Situated on the site of a one-time farming community, New Town was being designed to invoke and embody a comfortable lifestyle for the 21st Century in the style of “New Urbanism.” Central to Whittaker’s vision were parklands filled with water features.

While visiting St. Louis’ famed Forest Park, Whittaker noted Hydro Dramatics’ work on the beautifully restored and refurbished fountains, pools and jets in the park’s Grand Basin and Jewel Box. He quickly decided that Hydro Dramatics would be a natural choice to help with New Town’s water feature design and implementation.

As Whittaker saw it, Hydro Dramatics had developed just the sort of signature look for the Forest Park Grand Basin that he was seeking for New Town. “As we reviewed the possibilities, we came to agree with Whittaker’s assessment – mostly because he’d assembled a stellar design team,” says Anne Gunn, Hydro Dramatics fountain consultant. The team included Bruce Corban, principal of Toronto-based Corban and Goode Landscape Architecture and Urbanism; Marina Khoury, project manager for the Miami-based urban planning firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.; Tim Busse, vice president and director of architecture for Whittaker Homes; and the professionals at Hydro Dramatics.

Water Plays Key Role in Area’s History

“This group decided early on that water was to be not only an integral, interactive focus for New Town, but also a unifying thematic and visual feature as well,” Gunn says. “After all, the development is cradled between two of the most significant rivers in the world – the Missouri and the Mississippi – and sits in a city that played a key role in the opening of the West in the 19th Century.”

As far back as 1801, Thomas Jefferson sought a water route to the Pacific Ocean. After the Louisiana Purchase brought a slice of the Midwest under U.S. dominion, Lewis and Clark launched their “Corps of Discovery” explorations from the banks of the Missouri River in old St. Charles. What they found ultimately triggered America’s westward expansion.

This history—with the emphasis on water--was built into everyone’s thinking about New Town from the beginning. By the time the development broke ground in 2003, fully 80 acres of the 638-acre parcel had been dedicated to scenic lakes and a canal, all in public spaces.


Photo courtesy of Larry Duffy,
Whittaker Homes, St. Charles, Missouri

Floating Fountains Provide Focus

Three floating fountains provide the focus for the Grand Civic Basin, lending a backdrop to a 2,500-seat amphitheater. The basin has a central fountain with an 89-inch float, a stainless steel spray ring and a 20 horsepower pump that sends water 35 feet into the air through a four-inch geyser nozzle. The spray ring has eight two-inch geyser nozzles that shoot water 20 feet high. At full thrust, the system moves about 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

The two flanking fountains are on 63-inch floats, each with a four-inch geyser nozzle that shoots water in a spray pattern that reaches to 25 feet.

The fact that floating fountains are either tethered to underwater anchors or cabled to the shoreline makes them significantly easier to work on than a typical fixed fountain, according to Kerry Friedman, vice president and general manager of Hydro Dramatics. If, for example, a light or lens needs changing, a technician simply rows out in a boat to make the exchange. The fountains also are self-contained, so if serious work needs to be done, they can just be brought to shore, where their exposed systems and structures can be tended to with relative ease.

Splashing, Sparkling Water for All Seasons

“For these particular floating fountains, we were concerned with the occasional gusty winds that blow through the area,” Friedman says. “With that in mind, we installed two-stage wind-sensor controls driven by an anemometer that meticulously tracks wind speeds in the area. If the wind gets too strong, the sensor sends a message to a panel that controls the system’s variable-frequency-drive pumps and slows them down to shorten the sprays. If the winds exceed that preset level, a second one shuts the fountains down completely. The control system then continues to monitor the wind, firing the pumps back up to the appropriate level when conditions change – or keeping the fountains in the ‘off’ mode.”

Friedman says that there’s only one issue with floating fountains. “They need to be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the cold winter months to prevent surface ice from forming on the basin and possibly cracking the float – and to keep ice from forming on the streets from the fountains’ overspray. For the most part, however, that year-round functionality is a big virtue: After all, who doesn’t love the sounds of splashing water, which soothes and invigorates any day of the year?”

Future Plans

The sight and sounds of water, along with its historical context in St. Charles, were among the main reasons Greg Whittaker was so interested in focusing his project on water. New Town’s water – whether as canals, lakes or fountains--creates a relaxing, inviting atmosphere for socializing and special events, such as weddings. Future plans for expanding the character and function of the lakes and canal are under development and may include a harbor for people-powered craft, picturesque European-style bridges, sand beaches, swimming access and a boardwalk. The development is about 15 percent complete with 800 homes built and about 2,000 residents. The remainder of the 5,500 planned homes for New Town will be completed through the next 15 years.

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Media contact: Patricia Binder, 636-441-0022, or Debra Finkel, 314-878-1213, Finkel & Binder Communications LLC, agent for Hydro Dramatics.

 

 
 

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