Jacob Nentrup, left, and Olivia Snell, Drury University architectural students, visit with Sheila Walker and Mary Barnes, right, members of the Houston City Council, during a recent kickoff for a project to create a long-term vision for the community. 

Houston residents gathered Saturday to give their vision for the community over the next two decades. 

The City of Houston is undertaking the effort to receive input and develop a plan that will guide it in improving the quality of life in the community. A local advisory committee was appointed earlier.

The city is participating in the effort with assistance from the Hammons School of Architecture through its Center for Community Studies, as well as University of Missouri Extension’s state specialist for architectural studies. The Drury University Center for Community Studies has completed 59 similar projects in southwest Missouri since 2001. Attending were David Beach, an architect and assistant professor at Drury; and Jeff Barber, University of Missouri Extension architect.

Students arrived Friday in Houston and departed for Springfield on Sunday. The Houston project is one of two that will be undertaken over the next several months. Other Drury students are looking at housing issues in downtown Springfield. When completed, the projects are expected to generate thick books assessing Houston and downtown Springfield and offering suggestions for improvement.

The document will pinpoint where the Houston community can improve opportunities for housing, employment, education, recreation and other areas.

On Saturday a cross-section of the community — ranging from the school district to healthcare to businesses and churches — gathered to offer input at a kickoff event at the Houston Storm Shelter at First and Pine streets in Houston.

For students, it was the opportunity to hear directly from residents on their perceptions about the town’s assets and challenges. Those attending sat around tables and were tasked with written assignments:

•What are Houston’s assets and its challenges?

•Drawing a street map of Houston that included landmarks — which sparked discussion on what each person had included of importance.

That written input will be used as the Drury team assembles goals and ideas to carry out the community’s wishes. Earlier, students had toured the town with community leaders, arrived on the Texas County Memorial Hospital campus for lunch and visited with those stopping by the storm shelter before the meeting began.

The gathering Saturday was one of several planned public meetings and workshops set during the next several months. Residents — including  representatives from institutions and organizations — are invited to participate.

The schedule is Sept. 15, Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 at the community building at the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds. All of the meetings are on Monday and start at 6:30 p.m. 

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