Project Description: Alfred State completed a community visualization study of the Steuben County Village of Savona, New York in order to help the residents and municipal officials envision potential strategies for revitalizing their business district and surrounding neighborhoods.
Abstract: Alfred State – SUNY College of Technology is located in Allegany County, one of the poorest areas in New York’s Appalachian Region. With a county-wide population approaching 50,000 residents, communities tend to be very small with limited resources and part-time governments. Local community organizations and municipalities in Allegany and adjacent Southern Tier counties are especially in need of assistance with respect to long-range planning to create strategies for sustainable development of projects ranging from façade improvements to large-scale infrastructure repair and replacement.
In Fall 2014, Professor William Dean led the Architecture and Design Department’s senior Urban Design Studio in working with the Village of Savona, which is located in New York’s Southern Tier, as the subject for the semester’s community visualization study. Working individually and in small groups, students researched and documented the subject area and completed a site analysis which included a visual survey of the defined physical characteristics representing Urban Design Excellence and Design Linkages within the community. The report also identified the municipalities’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats based on conversations with area residents and local officials.
In addition to municipal officials and town residents, the students had the opportunity to work with architects, planners and landscape architects from a local firm involved in authoring a comprehensive plan for the town. The expertise of these design professionals supplemented the faculty instruction in this integrated studio that seeks to align architectural design with the realities of contemporary practice. Initial meetings, both in Savona and via teleconference, occurred every two weeks or as necessary leading up to the start of the project. Once the project began, meetings for data gathering and to participate in a design workshop occurred in Savona. The final design presentation took place in Savona where students publicly presented their work at the end of the project to municipal officials and town residents.
The information generated during the course of the project was used as a point of departure to illustrate and explain a positive vision for sustainability and growth of the Village of Savona through community engagement. The overall goal through student engagement of the community was to develop an inclusive community visualization study that included a series of design interventions based on the village’s recently-completed comprehensive plan. The study included a series of before and thematic after images intended to help local officials and residents envision possibilities for future development. Implementation will be possible through grant funding that will require the community to have a clearly defined vision to supplement the new comprehensive plan.