AMG Project Aids Berrien County
Date: September 9, 2011
Berrien County is full of hidden treasures—fruit stands, mom-and-pop cafés, wineries, little museums, and the ubiquitous beaches. Area residents can enjoy sun-warmed peaches or find antiques in the villages, but how to draw people off the highway to your u-pick farm or ice cream shop?
Together with the Bridgman/Lake Township Economic Growth Alliance, Martin Smith, assistant professor of architecture, and the Architecture Missions Group, both of the Andrews University School of Architecture, are conducting a Wayfinding Study along a 6-by-16 square mile area known as the Shawnee Road Corridor. The Shawnee Road Corridor extends from Berrien Springs to Bridgman, and includes Baroda.
The study is intended to attract visitors to the area and develop growth along the road through improved and descriptive signage. “The immediate need is for signage, but we are also working with the villages and communities to protect the rural character of the area,” says Smith. “We want to get visitors from Chicago, Indianapolis and Grand Rapids into the areas and discover all the little jewels that are here.” And the Economic Growth Alliance wants to maintain the rural setting that adds even more charm.
Preliminary plans designate Berrien Springs as a center for culture and recreation; Baroda as farm and wine country; and Bridgman as a beach town. Three types of signs have been proposed: a regional sign welcoming visitors to the overall region; district signs showing each village’s specialty; and “trailblazer” signs to point out individual attractions.
The AMG and the School of Architecture have been involved in local community development projects for the last decade. They proposed an urban design for downtown Berrien Springs about ten years ago, assisted with the Oronoko Township Hall, and have contributed to a number of individual local projects. This spring, they worked with their first civic client.
This past May, Martin Smith and a team of four student interns began developing two options for a 50-year master plans for the proposed Berrien County Complex in Benton Harbor, Mich. The plans include an animal control building, the first stage of the project and slated to begin construction in the near future; a power plant and health department, incarceration complexes, and in the next 15 to 50 years, a courthouse, administrative offices and other public buildings. The county will hire local contractors to construct the buildings as funded, but chose Andrews University’s Architecture Missions Group to design the master plan in part because of their civic-minded design philosophy.
“Institutions of the community such as government, education, and others ought to be integrated for the benefit of the community,” says Smith. “Projects like the Wayfinding Study and the County Complex get Andrews University more involved in the community,” which is one of AMG’s missions.
The AMG has also been participating in preliminary talks with the town of Berrien Springs to determine the safest routes to school, to promote walking and biking.
-Samantha Snively, student news writer, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication