College Towns as a Model of Sustainable Placemaking: Learning From Two Successful College Towns in Small Metropolitan Regions
The author is conducting a multi-year research project to study examples of successful small towns toward developing a model of sustainable places. This pursuit of successful models is rooted in the author’s dissertation The Public Realm as a Place of Everyday Urbanism (2008), supported by the 2007 AIA RFP grant. This original research involved the study of four college towns: Ann Arbor, MI; Athens, GA; Tallahassee, FL; and Lansing, MI. The present research, College Town as a Model of Sustainable Placemaking project, is a small component in extending the body of case studies to two additional college towns in small metropolitan regions: Asheville, NC (University of North Carolina at Asheville) and Savannah, GA (Savanna College of Art and Design).
Studies indicate that only a small number of North American metropolitan regions possess a successful downtown. These studies also reveal that a large number of these successful examples are college towns. With vibrant quality of life, stable economic opportunities, and an educated workforce, these college towns are exemplary settings to learn from. In each town, a mixed-modal methodology is employed involving morphological studies and spatial syntax analysis, which are to be combined with in-depth qualitative research using interviews and naturalistic observation. The analysis would draw lessons specific to small-metro towns for implementing revitalization policies and projects in these shrinking cities. Studying these college towns can generate models of sustainable urban development and can further guide revitalization policies and projects in shrinking communities concentrated on niche markets and sustainable quality of place.