This story originally appeared in Maplewood-Brentwood Patch on November 4, 2010.
A group of students from Washington University is working to reimagine certain development projects in Maplewood.
The students are enrolled in the Master of Architecture program at the University, and belong to a studio focused solely on the study and remodeling of the city. They are led by Eric Hoffman, a visiting assistant professor of architecture in the University's Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. He's also a Maplewood resident — and a member of the Maplewood Design and Review Board.
"This is something I've wanted to do for some time," Hoffman said. "It's just my interest in where I live more than anything, and I think that Maplewood has a really interesting history and it is moving in a really good direction."
While the project is an academic exercise, Hoffman and the students work to create tangible ideas that the city could theoretically implement.
In August, the students chose locations around the city that they felt most needed redevelopment. Some of these locations include the Deer Creek area, the intersection of Big Bend Boulevard and Manchester Road, and the Special Business District.
At that time, they started a working model of the Maplewood area. The students divided the model into nine different sections and worked on these sections in groups of two. The groups meet regularly to ensure their ideas mesh.
The students proposed many different changes involving the renovation of buildings, roads, and businesses.
One proposal from team members Chris Chappell and Allison Nendez suggests lengthening Rannells Avenue to stretch under the MetroLink and meet Manchester Road. They believe that this would help the flow of traffic and bring people from the neighborhood more easily into the MetroLink station and into the heart of Maplewood. The team also proposed a transportation hub on Manchester Road to accommodate bikers, walkers, and vehicles.
Hoffman said the project's main goal is to identify small changes that could benefit the city in a major way.
"It doesn't' take a big development like the Maplewood Commons to have a big impact in the city," Hoffman said. "We aren't trying to redefine or reinvent Maplewood. [We are] just trying to fill in the gaps and build on the successes, the things that make Maplewood an interesting place to live."
Third Ward Councilman Barry Greenberg, who owns the Architectural Design Guild, is involved in the project as well.
"When we look at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and we can see that complacency is not an appropriate response," Greenberg said. "By defining the needs of the community, the design studio then has the challenge of generating and developing projects, both incrementally and integrally, that address these issues."
The students' work may be on display at the city's annual Christmas Tree Walk on Dec. 3. The Maplewood Community Betterment Foundation and the city are currently working with the studio to ensure the work is showcased.