The students, who are in Auburn’s Master of Integrated Design and Construction program, made their first visit to the city on Friday to discuss the project with city leaders.
Mayor-elect Drew Gilbert was among the local representatives who participated in the meeting. Afterward, he expressed his gratitude that Auburn’s students and faculty would donate their time and expertise to help Cordova recover from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.
He added that he is also impressed by their excitement regarding their assignment.
“The energy that they are bringing to our city is 100 percent positive, and I hope that is infectious in all Cordovans as I feel that this will be necessary for our community to come back stronger than it ever has been before,” Gilbert said.
In June, another group of design students from Auburn presented their ideas for a new grocery store, fire station, library and City Hall.
Beth Stukes, chairman of Cordova’s Long Term Recovery Committee, referred to the concepts at the time as “pictures of possibilities.”
Paul Holley, co-director of Auburn’s Master of Design Build program, said the goal for this semester is to make the proposal for City Hall as practical as possible in hopes that it can be moved forward shortly after downtown demolition is completed.
“If we can get one thing going, then maybe that can become infectious for other projects, both public and private,” Holley said.
The students will have approximately four weeks to develop their own ideas for City Hall.
Their qualifications include not only undergraduate degrees but also some professional experience in architecture, interior design and construction management.
The group will also be receiving assistance from construction professionals at Birmingham-based Stewart Perry.
Holley said that while the students might be tempted to make suggestions about the master plan for rebuilding the city, he will be reminding them that what the city needs most is a catalyst for the overall recovery effort.
“If what we produce is not exactly what gets built, that doesn’t mean it’s not a success,” Holley said.
The design that the students will be tweaking is for a two-story, 10,781 square foot building on the corner of Main Street.
The first floor includes offices for the mayor, city clerk and utility boards as well as a police substation and auditorium that could serve as a community shelter during times of severe weather.
The city has two other shelters in the works, but neither is located in the downtown area.
Most of the second floor would be set aside as offices that are expected to be occupied by the city building inspector, industrial development board and other departments.
The main strength of the proposal cited during Friday’s discussion is the building’s accessibility. There are entrances on all four of its sides as the result of an asymmetrical design and an alley that would connect Main Street to First Street.
A similar green space on the other side of the block creates a walkway from the new ball fields to the proposed grocery store through the heart of downtown.
Some of the criticisms of the plan were its unnecessary exterior spaces, such as balconies on the second floor, and the inclusion of retail space in the municipal building.
The students are expected to present their altered proposals for City Hall in late November.
The city of Cordova’s relationship with Auburn University dates back to 2003. Cheryl Morgan and other members of the Urban Studio collaborated with residents on a comprehensive plan that could be used to capitalize on the city’s proximity to Interstate 22.
Morgan and the Urban Studio came back last summer to help create the roadmap to recovery that was adopted by the city council in November. That plan is guiding the work of the design students.