September 19, 2019 Public Space Proposed by Students, Built by Alumni Cited in Clarksville’s “Best Place to Live” Accolade

Clarksville Downtown Commons full view

The impact of the college’s Urban Design Studio continues to be seen.  This month, the city of Clarksville, Tennessee, was named the “Best Place to Live in America” by, and the city’s Downtown Commons—proposed by students—was cited as one of many reasons for the accolade.

The public space in the heart of the city was part of the city’s effort to reenergize its downtown following a devastating tornado in 1999 and was the central theme of designs by students in Professor Thomas K. Davis’s Urban Design Studio in summer 2012.

For the project, the studio of students in residence at the Nashville Civic Design Center gathered input from residents, worked with area architects, studied the urban design plan devised by Davis and created a proposal for city leaders to address opportunities.

In April 2018, Clarksville citizens cut the ribbon on the new Downtown Commons.

Clarksville Commons Design Board

The college’s Urban Design Studio has impacted the built environment in middle Tennessee since the studio’s origins in 1995 and in full beginning in 2004, when Davis began teaching it. In addition to influencing the redevelopment of Clarksville’s downtown through the commons, the students also proposed improved walkability, upgrades to the historic Roxy Theater, redevelopment of a transit center site and lighting the historic R.J. Corman Railroad Bridge, which was implemented in 2015.

Students in the studio also have designed and proposed sites for a potential Amazon headquarters; ways to repurpose Nashville’s Neuhoff slaughterhouse; transitions from mixed-use centers to neighborhoods in metro Nashville and development of Nashville’s Centennial Park Visitor Center.

In 2012, students’ designs influenced the city’s decision to build The Boathouse on the Cumberland River as a community-, sport- and culture-focused attraction. named Clarksville the No. 1 best city in which to live in America based on economy, cost of living, diversity, education, housing, health and safety, amenities and ease of living.  In its announcement, Money named the Downtown Commons as a reason the city was chosen and included a photograph of residents enjoying the space.

The Downtown Commons was professionally designed and built by Lyle Cook Martin Architects in Clarksville and Hodgson Douglas Landscape Architecture, Planning and Urban Design in Nashville.  The architecture firm is led by a father-and-son team of UT alumni, Lane Lyle (’74 B.Arch) and Matt Lyle (’10 B.Arch).

In the inter-disciplinary Urban Design Studio, students from all programs in the College of Architecture and Design spend summers in Nashville envisioning urban reformation and design for the Nashville area.  For details, visit