Revitalizing Main Street|
Jill Nolt’s plan for her hometown high school
makes front-page news
By Derry Wade
by Derry Wade
student Jill Nolt caught the imagination of her hometown community
in the planning of a creative revitalization project.
Though most people today would agree that the phenomenon of “suburban
sprawl” is threatening the existence of our rural landscape, most of
us do not know what to do about it. Perhaps, like those in Montgomery County,
Pa., we should take a lesson from Jill E. Nolt, whose plan for managing the
growth of her hometown high school recently made headlines.
A soon-to-be “double ’hoo,” who earned her undergraduate
degree in architecture with high honors from U.Va. in 1998 and who will receive
dual master’s degrees in architecture
and landscape architecture here
on May 16, Nolt conducted research for her master’s thesis last fall
on defining and structuring space within the boundaries and dynamics of time.
This theoretical study included a practical application in the form of a proposal
to address the needs of two groups — education and business — within
her hometown, Souderton, Pa.
The high school in Souderton is overpopulated and projected to grow even
further. In response, the school district has proposed to build an $85
on 160 acres of farmland. Simultaneously, local business leaders and town
officials are seeking to repopulate the increasingly vacant Main Street
area, which lies
adjacent to the existing high school.
In Nolt’s plan, instead of spending millions on a new high school campus
miles from the town center, the neglected buildings along Main Street would
be renovated to serve as additional facilities for both the school and the
town. A performing arts center and a fitness center could be used by students
during the day and by the entire town in the evening; additional classrooms
could provide meeting space outside of school hours. New retail businesses,
established along the street, would allow students employed in the school’s
work-study program to provide goods and services to the community as a whole.
of the school within the borough will cultivate the revitalization of the
once-thriving town,” Nolt said. “Together the borough and
the school can make Souderton a new kind of community that integrates learning,
culture and economics and that promotes high school students as an important
part of the society.”
Recently, Nolt’s proposal was featured on the front page of The Morning
Call, in nearby Allentown, Pa. In addition to generating interest among the
people of Souderton, her ideas have the potential to be applied to similarly
situated communities throughout the country.
Julie Bargmann, director of landscape architecture, commended Nolt’s
multi-disciplinary vision: “I think it’s wonderful that her work
has caught her town’s attention and has significant civic
implications that reach beyond formal design implications. She
is the ideal model of our
new department of architecture and landscape architecture in that
she can think at the scale of a watershed, and
create at the scale of a doorknob.”