Eleven students with the Savannah College of Art and Design on Friday presented their design concepts for revitalizing Hinesville’s Memorial Drive.
The event, hosted by the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority in the Hinesville Room at city Hall, was attended by Mayor Jim Thomas, Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman-elect Donald Lovette and Rachel Hatcher, planning director for Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission. Students presented six design proposals intended to enhance development in downtown Hinesville.
HDDA Director Vicki Davis said she and HDDA Chairwoman Melissa Ray visited SCAD’s campus last month and viewed the proposals before inviting the students to showcase their work here. She said the students’ proposals were a graded class project and therefore free to the city.
Davis welcomed students, leaders and guests then introduced Thomas and SCAD Professor Hsu-Jen Huang.
Thomas and Huang kept their introductory comments brief to allow the students more time to make their presentations. Students presenting their concepts included Leandra Pszeniczny, Vitali PushKar-Verbitsky, Sara K. Bartholomew, Benjamin A. Wyszynski, Almoiad Alkadam, Tiffany Loo, Chin-lun Wu, Sangho Lee, Abdulrazak Alkhalifah, Bobby Daniel and Amandy Kraczkowsky.
The six design concepts proposed included Green District, Cosmopolitan Greenscape, The Hybrid Town, Hinesville The World, The Floating City and The Pride of Liberty County.
Most of the design concepts included similar themes, such as mixed-use districts allowing for commercial development, multi-family housing, playgrounds, a veterans memorial and “walkable” areas. Most concepts also emphasized environmentally friendly green space with lots of trees, botanical gardens and community or urban gardens.
Nearly all designs proposed keeping the library where it is with renovations to support the city’s plans to build a new Armstrong Atlantic State University branch campus on Memorial Drive.
Although he didn’t attend the presentation, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier agreed the library needs to stay on Memorial Drive.
“Keeping the library where it is with Armstrong coming to the area creates that (educational) synergy we need,” he said. “We’d have restaurants that would move there, then other businesses would follow.”
Thomas liked the idea of urban gardens and asked the students whether their proposal calls for the city buying this property then leasing it. The students affirmed his question. Hatcher wanted to know about plans for parking along Memorial Drive in order to get to new businesses and facilities.
She was told this problem was addressed in the students’ plans for using current vacant lots along the street. Thomas asked about including a parking garage in their design. The students admitted they hadn’t considered that but felt it could be incorporated into their design, although a parking garage would be expensive.
Two of the more unusual designs were Hinesville The World and The Floating City. The “world” concept included two blocks set aside to capitalize on the city’s diversity. It would include six of the world’s seven continents superimposed onto the landscape. Lovette asked if their design concept was similar to that of Helen, Ga., a community designed to resemble an alpine European city.
The students hadn’t heard of Helen but reiterated their “world” included the culture of the entire world within two city blocks.
The “floating city” design seemed reminiscent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Alkhalifah told Thomas he felt the city needs more water sculptures.
Huang thanked his students and Hinesville for allowing them to work on the project. Thomas, in turn, thanked Huang and the students for their work. He told them not to be surprised if they revisit Hinesville in a few years and see some of their concepts in place.
“Dreams become facts on the ground,” Thomas said. “When I first came here as mayor, they told me we couldn’t do this or that and we got it done.”