A Chapel Hill area resident is one of the college students coming to Lewisburg next weekend when her class starts analyzing downtown properties to provide free design services to merchants and building owners toward revitalization of the public square and nearby properties.
"Our recommendations would be to, possibly, bring more people to the area," said Sadie Marchant, a student at the O'More College of Design in Franklin. "This is not necessarily to transform the square, but to help the businesses transform, and make them more user-friendly... something that will draw people there and then increase business."
She's the wife of a construction contractor and mother of two primary school children. They live on state Route 99.
As a Marshall County resident, Marchant has, of course, been to Lewisburg's public square, so she was "excited to hear that (her school) had chosen Lewisburg as the location for Studio on the Square this semester."
Marchant has also "noticed there are businesses that aren't booming" on the square, she said, and so she wants to take studio concepts and apply them to improve Lewisburg's image.
David Koellein is the chairman of O'More College's Interior Design Department and an assistant professor at the college. He spoke in a telephone interview shortly after an O'More class returned from Italy where they studied the history of fine arts in Rome, Florence, and Milan. Other students were then about to leave for Chicago for other studies.
"This summer, it's going to be Milan, Florence, Lewisburg, Chicago..." Koellein said of the design courses. "It's all going to be great."
A previous Studio on the Square class worked in Pulaski where they considered the renovation of an opera house on the Giles County Courthouse Square.
"It is remarkable, incredible and what an asset to the city if that can come back" as a venue for music and stage plays. "I was shocked when I saw it. Who would have thought such a gem would be there?"
During a campaign stop in Pulaski, then Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville toured the high ceiling building that's been in disrepair for years, but has recaptured the imagination of preservationists at the Giles County seat.
Meanwhile, Lewisburg's public square "has tremendous potential," Koellein said.
Here in Lewisburg, O'More Assistant Professor Rebecca Andrews noticed empty lots on the square. Two noticeable lots are, separately, owned by: Bob Phillips on West Commerce Street; and Walter Bussart at the northeast corner of First Avenue North and Church Street.
Such open spaces offer potential, Andrews said. They don't necessarily have to be filled with a building, she said. The open space could become something else, or used in different ways.
When Murfreesboro's public square was being renovated in the 1990s, a corner lot became a small park with a statue made of broad sheets of steel cut to portray the concept of family.
The empty lots here did not attract Marchant's attention, she said.
"Apparently it doesn't stick out enough for me to remember it," she said. "Our curriculum is very architectural based. It will be a full-scope of design work. It will all be interior, but there will be ways ... to draw people from the outside in, like awnings, so in that respect there could be work outside.
"It could include space planning, like moving walls," she said.
The Marchant family moved to Marshall County from Utah three years ago.
"We have close family friends nearby," she said. "We've been married eight years. We chose Marshall County because my husband grew up rurally and it's convenient and commutable to Nashville."
Marchant was born and raised in Park City, Utah, a snow ski resort town. Her husband is a general construction contractor, constructing energy efficient buildings for The Better Home in Nashville.
One of the reasons for the young couple's move to Marshall County was so she could attend O'More. She's working toward earning a Bachelor of Arts in interior design and plans to graduate in May 2012.