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UGA students to spend semester focusing on Covington, Almon area
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In its fourth year, the UGA Metropolitan Design Studio has once again set up shop in Clark's Grove where 10 landscape architecture students will spend the semester working on "good urbanism" projects for Newton County.

The projects will focus on things like walkability, connectivity, greenspace and smart growth.

This year the students will focus on two specific projects: a master plan for the downtown "government district" (encompassing the area from Emory Street and the Covington City Hall to Elm Street and the new county administration building) and a master plan for the Almon Road area from historic Almon to the Brown Bridge and Crowell Road intersection.

"I'd like to begin establishing a framework for architectural design guidelines for rural crossroads," said Randy Vinson, a landscape architecture instructor for UGA, who along with Instructor Hank Methvin, will be working closely with the students on their projects over the next 10 weeks.

Hopefully, the work done on the Brown Bridge/Crowell Road intersection can also be implemented at other major rural intersections throughout the county Vinson said.

Students with Georgia Tech will also be working on a green space preservation strategy for the entire county this year through a project grant from Georgia Conservancy. Vinson said he hoped that the UGA students would be able to collaborate with the Georgia Tech students.

"We're going to try to interface with them in different ways," Vinson said. "Both projects are just getting started."

The UGA students moved into the design studio and dormitory in Clark's Grove two weeks ago. Since then they have spent time getting acquainted with Covington, the square and The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, where they will be spending much of their time.

All of the students are in their fourth year of a five-year landscape architecture degree program.

"[Covington] seems like it has more history than Athens, said UGA design student Stephanie Nickell. "It's a great hub."

While in Covington the students will also design some new bicycle racks and complete a visual inventory of the city. The students say they are avid bikers and have enjoyed their tours of the city so far.

"I think I've covered the entire city running," said UGA student Jonathan Warner.

Added Margie Noonan, "Whenever I'm out running [in Covington], everyone waves at me."

Tuesday the students made an initial presentation of their project plans to city and county officials at The Center.

The students are also exploring a collaboration with like-minded high school students in Newton County that may have an in pursuing a future in landscape architecture.

Thursday the students met with officials from each of the three high schools to brainstorm ways that the high schoolers could be included in this semester's projects.

"This is a work in progress," Vinson said of the proposed collaboration between UGA students and high school students. "It's to find out how to best create that interaction."

The UGA Metropolitan Design Studio was founded in 2005 as a partnership between the Arnold Fund and the University of Georgia's College of Environment and Design with facilitation support provided by The Center.