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Madison to receive design plans from acclaimed professor and students


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At Lake Frances, City Manager Tim Bennett, former Mayor Myra Valentine, City Commissioner Ina Thompson, and Dr. Helen Miller met with 16 students from the University of Florida as well as the highly-acclaimed Professor Martha Kohen as part of a Year 2 project for Madison's Competitive Florida Planning activities that has been funded by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

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At a recent special City Commission meeting, the Commissioners voted to continue with Year 2 of the City of Madison's Competitive Florida planning activities funded by Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Part of that funding opened the pathway for the group of University of Florida students  and their internationally-acclaimed professor to come into Madison and identify new designs that could enhance the city.

It was an intrepid group of 16 University of Florida students and their professor who were not deterred by Hurricane Hermine as they made a trip into Madison on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Professor Martha Kohen, School of Architecture, the University of Florida, and her Design 5 class traveled from Gainesville to Madison in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Hermine to keep to their project schedule.  Prof. Kohen and her class met promptly at 9 a.m. at the Lake Frances dock with Commissioner Ina Thompson, City Manager Tim Bennett, former Mayor Myra Valentine, and Treasures of Madison County Museum President Teenie Cave.

The discussion at the Lake Frances dock was the kick-off meeting for a new project being undertaken under the auspices of the City’s economic development grant from the DEO.

“Prof. Kohen and her design students have agreed to devote their fall class to developing conceptual designs for outdoor recreation visitor enhancements in Madison, with special focus on Lake Frances.  Lake Frances is a beautiful natural lake fed by local springs.  The area surrounding the lake is developed as a biking, walking, and exercise path for local residents,” stated Commissioner Thompson.

“The objective of the UF project is to identify any new designs or approaches which could enhance economic spin-offs, which would lead to new job creation and additions to the tax base for Madison,” stated City Manager Bennett.

After sketching preliminary designs at Lake Frances, the group followed Commissioner Thompson to O’Toole’s Herb Farm, where Betty O’Toole provided a tour of her certified organic plant nursery and unique gift shops.  “During the Madison Asset Inventory conducted by DEO and related state agency representatives in April 2016, O’Toole’s was rated ‘high potential’ for future economic growth,” noted Commissioner Thompson.

Leaving O’Toole’s, Commissioner Thompson led the UF caravan to Lanier Field, Chef Art Smith’s Southern Kitchen and Garden School, and finally Downtown to the Treasurers of Madison Museum and on to the Norris Café for lunch.

Museum President Teenie Cave provided a guided tour of the Museum and answered many thoughtful questions from the students and their professor.  “We offer tours Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Our sign-in register tells us we’ve had over 1,200 guests in the past year,” stated Cave.

After lunch, the students and Prof. Kohen enjoyed shopping at Downtown Madison’s antique stores, clothing and gift shops.

Prof. Kohen’s previous experience with Florida communities includes work with Newberry, Daytona Beach, Chipley, White Springs, Crescent City, St. Augustine, Green Cove Springs, Jacksonville, Longboat Key, Gainesville, Orlando, Sarasota, Miami and the South Florida Compact of four counties.  Her international work includes Kopper Port-City, in Slovenia; Sao Paulo, in Brazil; Vicenza, in Italy; and Durban, in South Africa.

In addition to her full-time position as Professor, for the School of Architecture at the University of Florida, Kohen is Co-Founder and Director of the Consortium for Hydrogenerated Urbanism (CHU), and Visiting Professor at University’ La Sapienza in Rome.  At the United Nations, Prof. Kohen is a Member of UNESCO, Chair in Sustainable Urban Quality and Culture, Steering and Scientific Committees.

Prof. Kohen’s student perspectives are informed by travel to Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.  As Madison competes for business and visitors – both domestic and global – understanding and incorporating international perspectives becomes more important.

Madison’s efforts to build upon existing assets – natural, like Lake Frances and agricultural, like O’Toole’s – is in line with the DEO asset-based Competitive Florida vision.

If readers would like more information about this project, or others being pursued as part of the Year 2 scope of work for the DEO Competitive Florida grant, or if you would like to be invited to the final design presentations, please contact Dr. Helen Miller at

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