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Northeastern University Students Develop Wrentham Town Center Redesign

From left: Northeastern University Capstone Design Team members James Ceal, Project Manager Jessica O’Neil, Josephine Rosenthal, Cameron Parker and Odera Cole are working on a redesign of Wrentham Center. (Photo Courtesy Northeastern University)

WRENTHAM — A group of Northeastern University civil engineering seniors are studying the layout of Wrentham Center and developing a new design that will better serve pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.

The five seniors, Jessica O’Neil, James Ceal, Cameron Parker, Josephine Rosenthal, and Odera Cole, began studying Wrentham Center – near the intersection of Route 1A and Route 140 as well as the surrounding streets – when their capstone design class kicked off in January.

The students are the first to use drones to survey their area of study as part of the design capstone class at Northeastern. With the images they collect with the drones, the students will be able to generate a map that will be used for the basis of their design.

“It’s so exciting to have these students here in Wrentham, using their civil engineering skills to take a fresh look at Wrentham Center,” said Town Administrator Kevin Sweet. “It’s a great project, because they’re full of exciting, new ideas to improve the area, and it also gives them a chance to see what it’s like to design something for a community, with real residents passing through that area daily who could benefit from their ideas and input.”

As they craft a new design for the area, the students are searching for ways to improve bike and pedestrian safety, and are also looking to connect the available green space near the downtown. The group is also examining how the roadways could be used most effectively and safely by motorists.

Their design will embrace and promote a “complete streets” approach, where all users are considered equal, while considering the potential for future economic development.

“The class is a culmination of students’ academic, real-world and cooperative experience,” said Northeastern University Professor Daniel Dulaski, who is overseeing the students’ project.

The design capstone class encourages students to think of their favorite cities and the elements of those places they are fond of, and to try to integrate those into their design. Dulaski also asks students to think about all of the transportation users and commuters that may pass through an area as they develop their designs.

The five students working on the Wrentham Center redesign have also created a survey for residents to share their input.

“We have this survey put in place, ensuring that we are taking into account what the community feels they want and are incorporating that into the design as well,” said Jessica O’Neil, the student project leader. “We are listening to the community, not just designing what we think is best.”

Residents can take the survey by clicking here.

Over the last decade, Northeastern students that have taken the capstone design class have worked on 45 projects in 22 communities. A prior group of Northeastern students provided a similar design proposal for the Town of Mansfield, and that design helped the town to secure a $2.37 million MASSWORKS grant.

“The hope is that the design will look at each of these roads and try to incorporate each of these goals we have to make a cohesive area,” O’Neil said. “It has been really interesting. We are using what we have learned in class, and realizing the different tools we have to offer in this real-world application. It’s been really good for my education.”

O’Neil and her project partners will complete their design this April.