Andrews University helping revitalize historic downtown Buchanan

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BUCHANAN, Mich. -- The city of Buchanan enlisting the help of Andrews University to revitalize their historic downtown and bring more economic development into the area.

It’s part of the city commission’s Master Plan and a recent survey of residents found that many said they chose to live in Buchanan for its small town atmosphere, but they’d like to see more retail and dining options.

Graduate students from Andrews University’s Urban Design Studio made their first visit to Buchanan this week for the semester-long partnership to draw up designs for how to reimagine the historic stretch of downtown.

“We got to see the historic fabric that’s unique in Buchanan and a lot of authentic locations – especially McCoy Creek, you don’t really often have a town center like this – there’s a river right behind Buchanan that I think hasn’t been fully tapped into yet as far as its opportunity,” said Andrew von Maur, Professor of Architecture at Andrews University.

While Buchanan has already restored many old, vacant buildings that are now filled by local businesses, officials recruited these students to lend their design eye in finishing the job.

“How to utilize some of the buildings that aren’t full, we have the Ross Sanders building that we’re looking to do renovations to and hopefully the students will be able to help us figure out, they see things that we haven’t which is what’s really refreshing,” said Mayor Sean Denison.

One already bustling industry is recreational marijuana, something Mayor Denison said has been a great economic driver, but isn’t going to necessarily boost tourism.

“We need something for people to do once they get here, so we’re trying to find ways to use buildings we already have for those people to eat, shop,” said Denison. “A lot of what we’re hearing is the community feels we’re saturated with cannabis retail and they’d like to see other things.”

As for why Buchanan was chosen?

Professor von Maur said architecturally interesting communities like it fit all the criteria for his class’s latest project.

“Small towns like this that have good bones, with unique settings and historic buildings that are walkable and there’s some things to do, we’re excited about working with the city and identifying those opportunities,” said von Maur.

Buchanan does still have its survey open for residents’ input on downtown development and the students at Andrews expect to have their design blueprint finished by April.

The city will hold public events for more community input as well.

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