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Osceola, shown in this aerial perspective, is using the work of Drury University students to create an action plan to develop sustainable growth.
Osceola, shown in this aerial perspective, is using the work of Drury University students to create an action plan to develop sustainable growth.

'People, Planet, Profit'

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Drury University architecture students participating in its community studio course are learning about more than drawing to scale. They are learning history, economics and politics, too.

Brian Silva, a Drury University architecture major from St. Charles, had never heard of Osceola, a city of around 1,000 people about 65 miles north of Springfield, when he started the class in the fall.

By the end of the semester, he was well-versed on the city’s history and geography, and its leaders’ economic goals.

“Urban planning is something I’ve always been interested in, and this allowed me to be a part of a community development project in a way that is consistent with how they work in the real world,” Silva said. “It was quite an experience for me.”

Drury has offered assistance to 18 Missouri cities since 2007 through its community studio classes, which are part of its Center for Community Studies program.

Last fall, the classes reached out to towns in central Missouri to create action plans to develop sustainable economic growth in those areas. The students worked with city leaders who participated in development committees in the towns of Osceola, Windsor and Urich.

Students meet with their community committees around five times a semester to learn about the types of opportunities available for attracting tourism and investment in their towns, according to Jay Garrott, CCS director and the instructor of the community studio classes.

“You’ll hear students say ‘people, planet, and profit,’” said Jeff Barber, a housing and development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, who has worked with the Drury students and participating communities since the program’s inception. “Those communities that can address all three of those areas in their planning are more likely to find solutions that are sustainable.”

Osceola rises on the Osage
In Osceola, Garrott said students created plans that would tie the community to it historical heritage and emphasize its connection to the riverfront area. The town was once the last stop for riverboats on the Osage River.

“Osceola had the second-largest economic center in the state prior to the Civil War,” Garrott said. “A lot of people don’t realize it was burned to the ground by Jayhawkers during the Civil War.”

He said one of the challenges for developing the riverfront was the area’s water-level fluctuations. Its proximity to the Truman Reservoir leaves it vulnerable to the controlled floods managed by the Army Corps of Engineers to regulate water levels. The regular floods can change the shoreline near Osceola’s downtown by 30 feet, Garrott said.

For Silva, that meant little could be done in terms of development below the flood line. The solution: construct trails near the shoreline that would be accessible when water levels were normal, and build a replica steamboat with a restaurant that could be launched on the Truman arm.

Silva and six classmates presented a 200-page report to city leaders Dec. 13. Their suggestions for economic development included plans for an RV park and a welcoming center, street beautification in downtown and visually enhancing access along Highway 13 by working with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Garrott said communities contract with the university for around $6,000, which covers the costs of travel and administrative expenses. Garrott said students are graded for their participation in the group’s efforts.

Monett’s Vision 2030
In 2009, the city of Monett, about 30 miles west of Springfield, contracted with Drury to study ways to redevelop its downtown.

City Administrator Dennis Pyle said Monett residents took an interest in the student’s visioning process, called Vision 2030. He said more than 160 people attended the group’s three community vision workshops.

He said the 145-page report Drury students presented to the city, the Monett Chamber of Commerce and the Monett Betterment Group has led the city to seek state development dollars through the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri initiative program. Pyle said the program provides an 80/20 percent match for securing development dollars.

“Whatever money we’re able to get through the DREAM initiative will ultimately be tied back to the visioning process,” Pyle said. “It’s that process that has put the wheels in motion.”

Pyle said the Drury students made a number of helpful recommendations tied to economic development including those tied to flood mitigation downtown, way-finding signs, and increasing parks and greenspace in the city.

Windsor rides Katy Trail
Danielle Clay, an architecture major who worked on the Windsor project, said she was encouraged by her participation in the community studio class. She said the town’s proximity to the Katy Trail, a 225-mile bike path that stretches from Clinton to St. Charles, was one of the assets she and her classmates wanted to use to promote economic growth.

“A lot of people go through Windsor, but they don’t stop. We really looked at what they could do to get them to stop. Two of the things they need are a place to eat and a place to stay, so we recommended something we called the Katy Trail Bistro Market,” Clay said.

“We got really good feedback,” she said. “It’s scary for some to change, and for some it’s a dream. But sometimes you have to dream in order for your city to survive.”

Barber at University of Missouri Extension said five of the 18 participating communities have pursued funding through the DREAM initiative. He said several of the communities that haven’t pursued DREAM funds may have sought funding from other sources or might not have been good candidates for the program due to a lack of infrastructure or other factors.

Communities that participate in the DREAM initiative end up seeing between $2.5 million and $5 million in grants, tax credits or other funding through the Department of Economic Development, he said.

Barber said a key feature of Drury’s community development program is that it seeks sustainable answers to economic dilemmas.

“The work Mr. Garrott and I are doing stems from a deep commitment to help communities understand sustainability and pursue the best practices of smart growth that exist,” said Barber, who was once a student of Garrott’s.

Next semester, Drury students will work with six Missouri communities: Crane, Galena, Reeds Spring, Carthage, Stockton and Rich Hill.[[In-content Ad]]

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