By Hadley Montgomery
On Thursday November 12, the Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, LLC, led by Brian Wright, presented a potential plan for the future of Downtown Sewanee. The planning workshop occurred in upstairs of McClurg but could also be accessed online via Webinar. “TPUDC is a boutique New Urbanist town planning and urban design firm specializing in the design and implementation of projects across the United States” (www.tpudc.com). The company has been closely working with the Sewanee community to create a downtown master plan with steps for growth and development. Over the past 30 years, there have been many attempts of planning for the city of Sewanee, but now is the time to move from planning to implementation. In August 2015, members of the community gathered to begin the creation of this plan and aid the implementation for future endeavors. This meeting was open to the public, making the whole process transparent to everyone in the community.
The Sewanee Village Action Plan was drawn to illustrate ideas for Downtown Sewanee. The plan aimed to meet housing needs, promote economic development, improve quality of life, and attract potential students and staff. In the past, all of these plans have stopped at an illustrious drawing showing pictures and renderings. Now, we have to take these drawings, put them into the computer, and start figuring out the dimensions to begin actually building and creating a great downtown area. TPUDC set foot on every road within the Domain to begin understanding the intricate lay of the land in Sewanee. Principles were created for the future of Sewanee: walkable, mixed use (daily needs), compact (preserving the most scenic and natural areas while developing others), and diversity (mixed housing types for diversity in income, ages, and types of people). The downtown boundary was drawn, including the most rural areas (Brakefield Road) to the most urban areas (the current downtown). Another element to these principles is preserving the isolation and closeness to nature here at Sewanee, thus not creating further noise and light pollution by promoting ecotourism, trails (such as the Mountain Goat Trail), and biking. The plan also looks to create more green spaces in the center of the downtown, with a park for people to congregate and utilize.
Just by driving downtown, one notices the monstrosity that is Highway 41A. As of now, 41A is five lanes in Downtown Sewanee. The plan would be to, once in Sewanee, make the road two lanes, with a reduction of the speed limit to 25 miles per hour. We would have a town square with new civic space, a possible theatre, on-street parking, street trees, sidewalks, and places for people to gather to create a more unified, cohesive Downtown Sewanee. The plan created in August by community members and TPUDC was presented in a PowerPoint at the event on Thursday to solidify plans for the final draft in December and for a continuing forum of opinions from the community. According to Brian Wright, “The overall goal for Downtown Sewanee is that in 100 years, no one will realize what happened in 2015, they will just see that the town grew with the natural evolution and growth in context.”