VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University recently partnered with the City of Adel to develop a plan that will restore the city’s downtown area to its historic prominence as a center of community activity and pride.
Working through VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact, Dr. Joseph Robbins, professor and head of VSU’s Department of Political Science, said students in his POLS 4100: Political Science Capstone course tackled the real-world project during Fall Semester 2021 with assistance from Dr. Keith Lee Jr., coordinator of VSU’s Public Administration and Organizational Leadership programs. The students collaborated with Adel’s mayor, downtown development manager, community development director, and others. They researched neighboring communities. They studied building codes, city ordinances, building design plans, traffic patterns, economic development indices, social media curating, and academic research to put together the strongest plan possible.
Robbins said his students were transformed by the experiential learning opportunity and inspired to step outside their comfort zone, gain new knowledge, and develop ideas and strategies for helping Adel leaders build a better future for their beloved City of Daylilies.
“City of Adel leaders have several challenges they desire to address, such as declining population, commercial building vacancies, underutilized land use, and downtown revitalization,” shared Tracie Washington, one of the students who worked on this project. She and her classmates often visited Adel outside of class hours to develop a sense of connectedness and ensure that their proposed ideas for revitalization kept the community — its way of life and its people — at the heart of any plans presented.
The plans VSU’s students came up with will help guide the City of Adel over the next 10 to 15 years.
“I felt exhilarated, challenged, and overall honored to be a part of this community’s future growth,” added Washington, who plans to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a double minor in Public Administration and Women’s and Gender Studies. “I learned the challenges rural areas face while working on this project, and I learned what a sense of community feels like because they welcomed me and allowed me the space to find creative solutions to address their issues.”
Randy Lane, community development director of the City of Adel, said that the information the students provided has already proven helpful in planning a set of long-term goals for the downtown area, including green space, pocket parks, and walkability. With the growing interest in creating convenient live-work-play experiences, this plan will certainly bring new lifeblood into the area.
A healthy, vibrant downtown — one that is authentic, with a unique sense of place that is full of character and charm — will prove essential to Adel leaders as they strive to enhance economic and community development efforts and offer a high quality of life to current and future residents, visitors, and businesses.
When making the decision to work with VSU on this plan, Brandie Dame, downtown development manager for the City of Adel, said, “We knew the work would be sound and high quality.” She said the city looks forward to implementing the students’ recommendations, bringing new sights and sounds to the downtown area, increasing the excitement and activity, and creating a buzz that is unique to Adel.
The Center for South Georgia Regional Impact was created in 2018 to support VSU’s unwavering commitment to being a catalyst for regional comprehensive progress and serving as a resource for industry, healthcare, arts, education, athletics, and other changing economic needs that support the growth of the region. The center works with community leaders in VSU’s 41-county service area to identify issues they want to confront and then connects those community leaders to VSU faculty, staff, and students with the knowledge and skills needed to develop solutions and accelerate progress toward a better tomorrow.