Redesigning Spring Lot

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Tribune photos by Clint Confehr O'More College of Design student Toni Crowder explains how Lewisburg's original source of water can be developed into a destination to display town history.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

On the north side of Water Street near Rock Creek is the Spring Lot, named by "the new commissioners of Lewisburg" who designated it as a park in late 1836. On Friday, two students from O'More College of Design in Franklin, Tenn., presented plans on how to revitalize land with a "strong spring" in conjunction with renovation of downtown Lewisburg.

Don Jeter of the Marshall County Historical Society researched and wrote about the property on the west side of Rock Creek, behind PCL Express clinic, where the spring "was to be used by the town as a water supply." O'More Studio on the Square classmates Ellen Hale and Toni Crowder designed a proposed Meriwether Pavilion for the spring and its historic wall and stairs. The idea for a pavilion is a result of their work that's way outside the box - it's actually "unorthodox" -- because, as O'More Design Department Chairman David Koellein pointed out, "They're studying to be interior designers."

Studio on the Square is a summer course for O'More College students who examine buildings and develop interior designs to improve the owners' and/or tenants' use of space, as well as the image of the structure. It's an exercise for the students. For interested property owners, it's free advice from trained designers who are, admittedly, still in school. The class was conducted here last year and returned for an unprecedented second year in the same town. The class has been held in Pulaski and other Middle Tennessee cities. Some Lewisburg property owners are using designs they received last year.

The Hale-Crowder plan includes a footbridge over Rock Creek to connect the spring to Lewisburg's walking trail. The bridge in Rock Creek Park has an industrial appearance. The proposed bridge would be almost invisible at night. The pavilion's concrete base could be used as a place to rent bicycles, hold concerts or, among unrealized potentials, just a place to sit and rest while on a walk. A small church service could also be held under the implied shelter of the pavilion's poles. One might even imagine the spring park as access to Rock Creek where congregants are baptized. The pavilion would honor Meriwether Lewis, Lewisburg's namesake and the Lewis and Clark Expedition leader who died at an inn on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

Other projects were for buildings with old-fashioned facilities. One is what O'More Assistant Professor Rebecca Andrews called the Butler Hardware building on the southwest corner of the public square. It's been most recently been the place for an Internet services business.

"It's one of the most unique buildings," Andrews said. "It has an elevator with a rope pulley and the original hardware shelves with a ladder."

The students' plan is to transform it into a "sit-down restaurant," the assistant professor said, using a phrase often repeated by area residents as the kind of eatery sought for Lewisburg, despite the current number of local restaurants with table service.

Kyla Holder of Madison and Lauren Bennett of Knoxville were assigned the task of designing the restaurant, taking into account Health Department requirements, although they weren't so specific as to state a location for a grill that would need an exhaust fan.

"We're not qualified to do that," said Holder, who's wanted to be an interior designer since she was 15 years old.

The design of space affects people, she said.

"Color affects a person, as does layout and it can affect you emotionally," Holder said. "Everything has a purpose in design."

She and her classmate sought to provide plans for a "comfortable, laid back restaurant" in the building at West Commerce and Second Avenue.

The interior space across Second Avenue South from Butler Hardware was also assigned to Holder and Bennett. It's the bridal shop dubbed Your Wedding Your Way.

Proprietor Cecilia McLean "wanted us to help her find a way for better display of the gowns and to provide more storage space," Holder said. The classmates decided to recommend that McLean "hang dresses from a rod suspended from the ceiling."

That way, McLean "will have more space to display her merchandise," Holder said.

Caitie Gunter of Franklin was developing plans for what she and her classmate, Brittany Meeks of Nashville, called Studio 111, the building used for Zumba classes now at 111 First Avenue North. They envision an event hall for a wide variety of purposes.

Gunter and Meeks are also working with Jennifer Crow, proprietor of Chickee's restaurant, which is moving to Second Avenue North from West Commerce Street.

They're getting as specific as placement of tables and chairs to maximize "the functionality of the restaurant," Meeks said.

It's a tall order since Crow studied design in college and plans to implement the plans as she sees fit for her new location.

Lynda Potts, co-owner of the Potts Building on East Commerce Street - it's between the clinic and the glass shop - now has the plans for the second story of the building.

The second story has 4,000 square feet that Lauren Elwell of Hendersonville and Kristen Prudoff of Brentwood cut up into an apartment and an office.

Potts said she and husband Ed wanted designs that could be shown to a prospective buyer so it could be said, "This is what you can do" with the upstairs. Downstairs is now storage space for the Potts' business. The building at 124 East Commerce St. had been where Lewisburg Plumbing and Heating was located. Students weren't asked about what might be done for the ground floor.

Prudoff and Elwell also considered restoration of the old Dixie movie theater to bring back the glamour of Hollywood's heyday.

"We're trying to bring it back to what it once was," Prudoff said; "Old, but new."

They're suggesting an art deco period design that's similar to what's been done at the Franklin Theater, several blocks from the O'More campus.

"The marquee is beautiful the way it is," Prudoff said. "The biggest change would be the area under the marquee where we'd bring in a resin-type material that mimics what it looked like in the 1950s."

Having the O'More class repeated again at Lewisburg's public square remains possible, but still an uncertainty, Koellein said. He and Andrews have months to decide, but still, the property owners and proprietors here have responded with what might be called greater interest in the students' designs.

Compared to the other towns' landowners and proprietors, those here seem to be a "more questioning group," Koellein said. The questions have been very specific on how to apply materials and what kind of furniture should be placed in the structures. The questions are about how to implement the plans.

"The difference is that usually we get questions about conceptualization versus implementation," the department chairman said. "They're intrigued by student ideas and they serve as a generator for their ideas."

Implementation of students' ideas is what former Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips is doing with his empty lot on Commerce Street. Meanwhile, new owners of what's known as the old Chinese restaurant have been reportedly considering ideas from last summer's student for revitalization of the second story apartments in that corner building.

The return of O'More's Studio on the Square also drew Jeff Oberlander and his wife, Karen, to the student's presentations on Friday in the First Presbyterian Church. Karen Oberlander plans to be an O'More student and thereafter the couple will be business partners. He's a painter.

Another building assigned to O'More students is the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce office on Second Avenue North.

Among a host of ideas presented, the Chamber's restroom facilities would be changed to accommodate a bigger conference room and associated table, as well as two access ways to the restroom. A door to the Water Street side of the building would be made useable again, thereby increasing handicap accessibility and offering a way to close off the room so it could be rented as a separate space for meetings.

Re-evaluations of buildings' space is at the heart of design for renovation that includes something as simple as relocating a refrigerator at the Chamber office. Yet lessons from the design college's Studio on the Square include practical, real-life interaction with property owners, and businessmen and women who ultimately can give the students their highest score when the ideas are used.