architect student imagines a “gateway” to the city center | Local News

His family’s deep connection to Greenville served as inspiration for a Notre Dame architecture student’s thesis project – the design of a downtown space that integrates the historic Majors Stadium arch into a center community and a modern and well-appointed square.

Leighton Douglas, a fresh graduate from the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, shared her hypothetical concept Tuesday with Greenville City Council. With architectural renderings in hand, she presented a sketch drawn from her mind that depicts a magnificent gateway to the city’s downtown.

“This is obviously a theoretical project,” Douglas told the board after his presentation. “I was exploring, seeing what I could do, but I love the town of Greenville. I’ve been here; it was a part of my childhood that I loved.

Douglas, who attended Richardson High School, recalled that as a young girl her mother, Leslie Douglas, would take her on field trips through Greenville, where Leslie lived from age 6 to 16. Digging deeper into his family’s roots in Greenville, Leighton’s grandparents were among the founders of Greenville Christian School. Mike Herman, his grandfather, served as the school’s first chairman of the board.

Through many visits to Greenville, Douglas developed a familiarity with the city. The downtown buildings and the historic character of some old properties intrigued him. In the summer of 2021, his mother showed him around downtown Greenville, and Leighton once again observed some of its most illustrious architecture: the Old Post Office (now the Landmark on Lee Street) and the Central Christian Church. She also noticed the revitalization of several buildings, including the Texas Theater and the Landon Winery.

With this in mind, Douglas saw a chance for “urban intervention” and she put her architectural skills to work imagining what Lee Street and downtown could be like in 5 to 15 years.

“I thought it would be amazing to have something that signifies the start of this important street, especially incorporating parts of Greenville history such as the Majors Stadium arch.”

In developing her concept, she freed herself from concerns about existing streets and structures.

“We’ve been told to tear down whatever we want, to act like there’s no law restricting you.”

Douglas decided to place a community center in downtown Greenville, envisioning an L-shaped building at Lee and Houston streets. She saw it as an anchor point for the beginning and the end of the city centre. Its design provides for courtyards, an auditorium, a gymnasium, a multipurpose space and a café on the first floor. On the second floor would be a library, administrative offices, fitness center and after-school space.

But she also wanted a large outdoor space, a place where people could gather, listen to concerts and enjoy the shade of a pavilion. The space could also accommodate a larger farmers’ market, and Douglas envisioned football and baseball fields. Hence the name Majors Fields Community Center.

Standing as the main entrance to the traditional Texas brick community center and adjoining plaza would be the historic arch that still stands as a tribute to Majors Stadium, a baseball stadium where the minor league Greenville Majors once played and beat the mighty New York Yankees in an exhibition game.

She explained that bringing the arch closer to Lee Street gives it a greater sense of significance, showing Greenville’s pride in its history.

After the presentation, Mayor Jerry Ransom told Douglas about a city committee to review downtown redevelopment.

“We have a Vision 22 committee made up of a group of citizens who are looking at downtown redevelopment, maybe looking at rerouting streets and that sort of thing. It’s a shame you’re not here to sit on the board,” he said with a smile.

David H. Henry