Urban Studio Students Provide A Bright Future for Abbeville

Abbeville Museum Ground Floor Atrium by Abby Best

As one of their group projects this year, Urban Studio students in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) prepared a comprehensive urban planning presentation focusing on Abbeville, Alabama.

They combined a variety of resources to study the area—from regional maps to master plans for commercial, institutional and residential areas. As is the case in many communities, the students’ presentation outlined key points about assets like parks and community buildings as well as on issues regarding parking and opportunity zones. The Abbeville community’s proximity to major cities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, as well as natural landmarks like the Bankhead National Forest, position the city to grow in the coming years.

Abbeville Regional Map
Abbeville Regional Map
Abbeville Master Plan
Abbeville Master Plan

Abbeville’s history dates back nearly as long as Alabama’s statehood. Abbeville was first settled in 1820, shortly after Alabama became a state, and grew quickly. By 1831 it was named as the county seat for Henry County and the first post office in town was established in 1833. In fact, Henry County’s founding pre-dates Alabama’s statehood.

Named for a nearby Indian Creek known as “Yatta Abba” (“a grove of dogwood trees”), Abbeville is located in the southeast corner of the county, in the Dothan, Alabama, metropolitan area. The town is known for a beautiful historic district and, in addition to the National Forest, the community has developed a lively food and art scene that features numerous local restaurants, shops and galleries.

The students’ work in Abbeville is part of a three-phase project with the community and the Jimmy Rane Foundation. This first phase included a partnership with DesignAlabama for a Design Vision charrette and both the third- and fifth-year students worked with alum Marshall Anderson ’97 and Urban Studio Director Alex Krumdieck ’86 during the fall charrette. They were accompanied by Krumdieck in February when the fifth-year students returned to Abbeville to present the results of the charrette.

Urban Studio students presenting their work in Abbeville, Alabama
Urban Studio students presenting their work in Abbeville, Alabama

The presentation focused on the interests and concerns of Abbeville’s residents regarding the community’s development, growth and the current and future quality of life. The students looked at development opportunities in the area and understanding how proposed sites and opportunity zones could enhance local economic growth and improve community infrastructure. To build on this, they examined the current state of transportation and accessibility, which detailed how parking lot issues and improved transportation routes could directly affect residents’ daily commutes and accessibility.

Part of the students’ project was to examine current and past master plans to see how they incorporate green spaces and environmental sustainability. This would help the community preserve the natural beauty and general health and well-being of its residents. They also considered the effects of urban planning strategies on local parks, schools and community buildings, and how these changes might benefit residents now and in the future.

The next phase of the project included the participation of the Urban Studio third-year students, who created concepts for a new museum development. This museum would engage the City and its residents by showcasing Abbeville’s rich history as well as the art, sign and car collections of local businessman Jimmy Rane ’68, Great Southern Wood founder and member of Auburn’s Board of Trustees. In addition to the charrette presentation, the students’ work demonstrated how the museum development concepts incorporate into the vision for Abbeville.

In December, the third-year students detailed their museum projects during a juried presentation. A panel of three local architects and their professors reviewed the museum development concepts. Out of the four presentations, Abby Best won the Pella Student Award for “Strongest Concept & Development” for her designs.

Abbeville Museum Front Entry Perspective by Abby Best
Abbeville Museum Front Entry Perspective by Abby Best

For the third phase of the project, Krumdieck and adjunct faculty Ben Wieseman ’12 will combine the students’ work and Mr. Rane’s feedback to craft an RFP/RFQ for the Foundation to solicit a consultant team for the final design and construction to make the new museum in downtown Abbeville a reality.

Partnerships like these help cities like Abbeville realize how they use design and planning to lead the community into the future.