Students unveil High Springs plans

UF architecture students share ideas to improve city block

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 12:30 a.m.
HIGH SPRINGS - The gas station, students decided, had to go.
All of the 27 University of Florida landscape architecture students who designed plans to revamp a block of this city of about 4,000 residents northwest of Gainesville planned for new commercial development or spots for a farmer's market to replace a prominent gas station downtown.
Besides that, the students' plans for a few acres behind City Hall ranged from a small-scale central park to a sleek, modern plaza that uses a series of fountains to show how the springs and sinkholes that help define the city are formed.
The students presented nine different plans to improve the block to city officials and residents Tuesday afternoon at the High Springs Civic Center, to the delight of most of the 20 or so people who attended.
"This is great," said Ruth Harlan, who owns a business in the city, after checking out the detail drawings draped over tables throughout the room. "It's neat to have someone come in and see your town objectively."
The city has already secured a grant to renovate an old school on the land behind City Hall on NW 1st Avenue, City Manager Jim Drumm said, and it hopes to do more with the city-owned land there - which does not include the gas station - in the future.
Gene Boles, who heads the community outreach program for UF's planning department and gives High Springs planning advice, suggested the project to landscape architecture professor Peggy Carr earlier this year.
Carr said the students were graded on their projects, which took about four weeks of class time.
"We love to do these kinds of projects," Carr said. "It's great when we can take care of the curricular needs of the students and help the community as well."
This isn't the first time UF students have dreamed up big plans for the small cities around Gainesville, or for Gainesville itself.
Last year, Carr said, students designed museums for Micanopy and Cedar Key.
Earlier this year, a group of UF graduate students designed a plan to spruce up a larger area of downtown High Springs, Boles said.
And the landscape architect undergrad students who presented plans Tuesday are now working on plans for the land surrounding the wastewater pond at Depot Avenue and S. Main Street in Gainesville, Carr said.
For the High Springs block project, Carr required students to use the old school as the new city hall and turning the library into a police station.
Juniors Alfredo Infante, 26, and Aaron Davis, 22, focused on telling the story of the city's nearby springs with fountains.
Ken Ray, a 25-year-old graduate student, and Ivan Maranan, a 23-year-old junior, turned the sinkhole into an amphitheater.
"It was a good experience working on this, because it gave us a feel of the historical elements at the heart of the community," Ray said. "Who knows - in 20 years, I could come back for homecoming, come to High Springs, and say, 'Hey, that's my park.' "
The city has no plans to convert the library into a police station or use the old school as city hall, officials said. And it doesn't even own the gas-station property students were eager to change.
But Boles said the city would likely consider ideas from the projects as it plans for future land use.
"You don't expect a class to produce a finished product," Boles said. "You do expect to get some ideas you hadn't considered, some perspectives you didn't think about, and you can incorporate the best of those into whatever you do with the land."
Amy Reinink can be reached at 374-5088.

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