August 02, 2012
CIA students get hands-on experience with an award-winning initiative.
Cleveland Institute of Art students are a designing force in a South Euclid program that reinvests in and reimagines distressed property.
Kate Steinmeyer (‘10) and Julianne Rodriguez (’13) have partnered with the South Euclid Green Neighborhoods Initiative, providing interior design work for a program that rehabilitates foreclosed and abandoned bungalows.
Green Neighborhoods was funded by an $800,000 grant in 2009 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Another $300,000 came from the First Suburbs Consortium, an advocacy group made up of elected officials from mature and inner-ring suburbs.
The city has focused on two avenues to help with the problems caused by the housing crisis, says Sally Martin, South Euclid Housing Manager. One is the startup of five community gardens. The other is the purchase of abandoned property, refurbishing homes (and in one case building a new house), and selling them to new owners.
The goal, Martin says, is to “reimagine the post-war bungalow using green building technologies, but also looking at them in a holistic way.” Hence, the program considers whether a home can accommodate first-floor living possibilities, for instance, or whether to create a mow-free yard.
Five vacant homes have been rehabilitated through Green Neighborhoods so far, and Steinmeyer — now an environmental designer at Chute Gerdeman in Columbus — tackled the interiors of the first four. The project gave her lots of insight into “how a residential project like this is run: The behind-the-scenes meetings with city officials, seeing contractors working onsite, and getting to be a part of the action,” she says.
She found the real-world experience a nice break from school, learned about the rigors of sustainability standards, and met local contracting and source-material professionals. Her work on a home on Wilmington Road was especially fun, she says because after selecting all the materials for inside, she also furnished and staged it for marketing purposes. (The woman who bought the house loved it enough to buy furnishings along with the house.)
Rodriguez did the job on the fifth rehabbed house and is working on a sixth — a new house being built in place of one that needs to be torn down.
She’s had the thrill of seeing plans flower into reality and the real-world experience of limited funds. “The budget was really tight,” Rodriguez says, adding that she had $1,500 to spend on lighting for the entire house and $2,500 for flooring. Martin said that collaboration was embedded in the Green Neighborhoods plan, and CIA seemed like an obvious choice.
“Having young designers help us reimagine our post-war bungalows for a modern buyer made perfect sense,” she says. “We have been thrilled with the results. The sales values speak for themselves.”
On streets where average home prices are just over $50,000, the Green Neighborhoods homes have sold for more than double that amount. The Green Neighborhoods Initiative won a 2011 Crain’s magazine Emerald Award honoring champions of sustainability.
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