Andrews University students brainstorm ‘what could be’ in Buchanan

Published 7:00 pm Friday, February 5, 2021

BUCHANAN – Andrews University Urban Design Studio students arrived in Buchanan on Wednesday to present their first impressions of “what could be” to the members of the Buchanan Steering Committee.

For the current semester, Buchanan will be the focus of Andrews Urban Design Studio for the fifth-year architecture graduate student class. The students asked for feedback on preliminary development concepts including mixed used downtown development, activation of public spaces, the creation of a new market neighborhood of choice and 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.

“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,” said Mayor Sean Denison at the end of the meeting.

Several students in the Urban Design Studio echoed the mayor’s enthusiasm. “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,” said Ornella Gregorutti, a student from Paraguay.

“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,” said Juston Foote from Oregon.

The City of Buchanan was recently designated as “The Nicest Place in America” by “Reader’s Digest” in 2020 out of over 1,400 towns across the country that were nominated.

“This is an intriguing and exhilarating process that we are embarking upon with the city of Buchanan,” said Ronesto Pineda, a student from Belize. “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 stated “Buchanan is a ‘lifestyle center’ where Downtown Buchanan is a 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 agro-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.