Town may partner with architecture students

FORT FRANCES—Upon recommendation of the Economic Development Advisory Committee, town council is having the Planning and Development executive committee look into hosting University of Manitoba architecture students to help with landscape design here.
Tying into the recent Downtown Core report, this initiative would see the town hold a “design studio” to allow U of M architecture students to gain experience and help prepare for their careers while giving Fort Frances the opportunity to receive input and design layouts from future architects at a reasonable cost.
The role of the town would be to set up focus group meetings to enable the architecture students to meet with local stakeholders and groups to gather information.
The students would look for local ideas, opinions, and concerns, and gather historical records, photos, maps, cultural and census data, GIS data, and so on, upon which to base their designs.
They then would take what they gathered, spend some time putting together a report, and eventually turn their recommendations over to council.
These ideas probably would be presented to the public at an open house.
In return, the town would cover the students’ travel, accommodations, and meals. The students probably would require two or three stays in Fort Frances to do what they need to do.
The idea of the “design studio,” which does not refer to setting up a physical studio for the students here in Fort Frances, was pitched to the Downtown Core Committee on June 26 by committee member and “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” representative Susan Bodnarchuk.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” she said. “What it’s going to do is give us input from 20 architecture students at the Master’s level. They should come back with lots of interesting ideas.
“We can pick and choose what works for us, and move ahead with what we can.
“It can be a longer term project, as well,” added Bodnarchuk. “We can do little bits here and there as we go.
“And it’s not just for the downtown area. It’s for the whole Fort Frances area—the east and west ends of town.
“Any greenspaces we might have, the focus group will come up with some ideas as to what they would like the students to look at or concentrate on.”
Bodnarchuk learned about the “design studio” initiative from her son, David, who currently is a Master’s of Architecture student at the U of M.
“Not to say he’d be a part of this, but he’d like to if he’s still there,” she said. “He’d work with and help them even if he can’t go back [to participate in the program after he graduates].
“He’s very interested.”
“With him participating in the ‘Re-Inventing’ project at the very beginning, he’s got the background of what we’ve been doing,” added Bodnarchuk. “He’d be an asset to the group if this works out.”
While it’s unknown when the design studio would take place, the Downtown Core Committee is hoping it could be within the next year, said Bodnarchuk, adding that if council decides to pursue this, the town should send a letter to the U of M as soon as possible.
“We have to make a request to the school. There are other small towns they’ve done this for, so we may be in line,” she stressed. “Whether it would happen this fall or in the January term, I don’t know that.
“Hopefully, they’re interested in coming over to Northwestern Ontario to work with us.”
In recent years, the U of M has held similar design studios in Morden, Minnedosa, and Dauphin, Man.
The recommendation regarding the studio came from the Downtown Core Committee on June 26 as a possible means of engaging landscape designers to develop initiatives included in the Downtown Core report—particularly enhancing four prominent intersections in town, as well as possible other local projects.
That recommendation then was supported by the Economic Development Advisory Committee at its July 10 meeting and forwarded to council.
Then on Monday evening, council referred the resolution from the Economic Development Advisory Committee to the Planning and Development executive committee for its recommendation.
(Fort Frances Times)

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