Where do you go next when you’ve already been honored with the designation of “The Nicest Place in America?” Onward and upward is the answer if you are a student from the Andrews University Urban Design Studio.
The Studio’s students arrived in Buchanan at midweek this week to present their first impressions of “What Could Be” for Buchanan to members of the Buchanan Steering Committee. For this semester, Buchanan is the focus at the Andrews Urban Design Studio for the 5th year architecture graduate student class.
The students asked for feedback on preliminary development concepts including:
- Mixed used downtown development
- Activation of public spaces
- Creation of a new market neighborhood of choice
- Creating strong connections from downtown and neighborhoods to McCoy Creek and the St. Joe River
The committee members challenged the students to think big and strive for something special to put Buchanan on the map.
One interesting potential opportunity discussed by Professor Andrew von Maur is to explore design ideas that could honor the history of Native American culture in areas near the river that continue to be of significance to local indigenous people.
Mayor Sean Denison said at the end of the meeting, “There is something special happening in Buchanan, Michigan right now. You can feel it in the air. It’s exciting to be working with these students. I can’t wait to see the ideas that come from this project.”
Several students in the Urban Design Studio echoed the Mayor’s enthusiasm. Ornella Gregorutti, a student from Paraguay, says, “Buchanan is a small quaint town that already has some great assets like the St. Joe River and the creek that runs through the town as well as a rich historic fabric. We’re excited to be part of this project and create some new opportunities for the town.” He fellow student, Juston Foote from Oregon, says, “I’m excited to see what we can do for the town, especially since what we see is a lot of potential in certain areas to really give the town the boost it needs to really live up to its name of being ‘The Nicest Place in America.’ I would like the outcome of this project to be for this town to grow and continue growing in a way that shapes its communities and built environments to really provide for its people, to make life better there.”
The City of Buchanan was designated last fall as “The Nicest Place in America” by Reader’s Digest for 2020 out of over 1,400 towns across the country that were nominated.
Ronesto Pineda, a student from Belize, was excited, saying, “This is an intriguing and exhilarating process that we are embarking upon with the city of Buchanan. I was nervous when having to present our ideas to the steering committee, but was relieved to feel the excitement in the room as they shared their interest in the proposal and their ideas with us. I believe that together we will be able to do something truly grand that will be of help to the city and its people for years to come.” Jaysung Choi, a student from South Korea added, “It was a great opportunity to discuss the immediate and future concern of Buchanan, and really feel the energy and momentum of the town.”
The students presented a draft vision statement to the committee members and asked for their insight. The draft vision states: “Buchanan is a ‘lifestyle center’ where Downtown Buchanan is an thriving urban eatery and business district, an outdoor theater dining experience where restaurant terraces and public spaces with arts and cultural events are nestled between historic facades and rushing waters of McCoy Creek and where this hub is connected locally via green and blue trails to the surrounding neighborhoods of Buchanan and to the St. Joe River and regionally to Pure Michigan natural resources, vineyards, orchards and agri-tourism.”
The project will now shift into full gear with a robust outreach to residents and stakeholder groups. The public is encouraged to follow the project on the City of Buchanan’s Facebook page, through regular media releases, and at open houses that will be scheduled throughout the project. The project will result in a final illustrative report to be available to the public in May.
In the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market, provided by Buchanan Community Development Director Richard Murphy, Andrews University student Jaysung Choi is shown presenting in Buchanan on Wednesday.