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College of Environment and Design

The City of Richmond Hill unveils UGA student’s designs for potential new mixed-use center

Student working in studio

The City of Richmond Hill, Ga. and the Richmond Hill Downtown Development Authority have partnered with students from the University of Georgia’s College of Environment and Design (CED) to create plans for a potential mixed-use center. At the intersection of State Route 144 and U.S. Highway 17 sits approximately 100 acres of land that serves as a main focus area for the city’s Downtown Development Authority. This partnership with students was an opportunity to create positive ideas for potential development.

“This kind of project gets our students out into the world and then back into the studio with applicable information and tools to get creative in solving city design challenges,” says Dean Sonia Hirt of UGA’s CED.

As a part of their class project, UGA students, led by Senior Lecturer Donnie Longenecker, traveled to Richmond Hill for first-hand inventory of the city and its environs. In addition to the visit, students did precedent studies of 20 similar town center developments throughout the U.S. to find examples of both effective and poor design for comparison. After feedback, the students refined their site concepts to one master plan that met the city’s needs.

“This property serves as a bookend and gateway to the Ford Avenue corridor of State Route 144, which contains Henry Ford historic resources. The opportunity exists to blend the new with the old by continuing the architectural style, planting, fencing, and Ford-era vernacular to create a sense of place,” says Scott Allison (UGA BLA 2003), Richmond Hill’s Assistant City Manager.

The City, DDA, property owners and stakeholders desire to create a pedestrian-friendly, walkable experience with retail, restaurant, office, civic, and potential residential component within the master plan created by these students. The property has unique challenges and opportunities with utilizing the space below the existing power transmission lines, as well as relieving traffic congestion at the intersection of State Route 144 and US Highway 17.

Caroline Brock, a third-year student involved in the project says, “Before this process with Richmond Hill, I was never forced to deeply consider design restraints in my studio classes. Scott and Becky of the Richmond Hill DDA were excellent mentors and showed us great hospitality when we visited, and I’m thankful for the chance to work with them and Professor Longenecker on this project!”

The final proposed plan from the UGA students is available on the City’s website at

http://www.richmondhill-ga.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2227.

Richmond Hill is located just south of metropolitan Savannah and has approximately 13,000 residents.

UPDATE:

This project was featured in a story on WTOC News in Savannah!

http://www.wtoc.com/2019/04/04/city-richmond-hill-partnering-with-uga-ideas-land-development/