July 8, 2019

Using Design to Improve Lives and Strengthen Communities in Cleveland

Erick Rodriguez

Pictured above: Cleveland Enterprise Rose Fellowship alumnus Erick Rodriguez with Buckeye neighborhood resident Bob Render

Enterprise’s 10th annual Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute (the Institute) kicks off July 16 in Cleveland, convening leading affordable housing developers and national design leaders from across the country to tackle some of today’s most pressing housing challenges, improving the lives of the residents and communities they serve in the process.  

As part of this year’s Institute, Cleveland’s CHN Housing Partners and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) will be exploring ways to enhance their upcoming developments in the city’s Central and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods. 

As the culmination of a decade of the Institute nationwide and a long history of working in Cleveland with local organizations to promote long-term health and social and economic well-being through good design, Enterprise will host a public talk and reception on Wednesday, July 17: “Designing for Dignity: How Neighborhood Development Can Do More,” which will feature John Cary, author of the book Design for Good (RSVP Now).

In Cleveland, Enterprise has worked hard using the Enterprise Rose Fellowship and the Institute, among other powerful tools, to make sure that well-designed affordable homes have ripple effects throughout the community, improving health and resilience and increasing economic mobility through connections to quality transit, jobs and education.

The fellowship partners promising designers with local organizations to increase the organization’s design capacity and has placed three fellows in Cleveland since 2010, making Cleveland among the top destinations for fellows nationally and acknowledging the city’s forward-thinking community development ecosystem. Each of these three fellows, working in partnership with their host organization and community members, has generated a unique, positive impact across Cleveland neighborhoods.

Emily Thompson (2019-2020), Kinsman Run Nature Preserve

Enterprise Rose Fellow Emily Thompson’s work with Burten Bell Carr on the Kingsbury Run Nature Preserve near the Central and Kinsman neighborhoods will connect an urban community, with limited access to nature, to 89 acres of thriving landscape and the larger system of parks and trails within the city. With connections to green space, communities see improvement in physical health and mental health, improved academic performance for children, and increased economic development. The potential ripple effect on the community, city and region could be catalytic for future generations. “As a design profession, we have the opportunity and responsibility to absorb, preserve and build upon the unique beauty of a place with the community,” she says.

Erick Rodriguez (2014-2016), Aspen Place

Aspen Place, which celebrated its grand opening in April, offers 40 well-designed affordable homes in an amenity-rich neighborhood, marking the first new construction development in DSCDO's history. “I am proud to say that my contributions early in the project held through to construction bringing energy efficiency and affordability goals to the forefront,” Erik says. The building has an enhanced building envelope with continuous rigid insulation, triple glazed windows, and mini-split heat pump system that gives it up to 50% greater efficiency than a building built to Ohio Building Code. Early on, Erick was tasked with identifying design strategies that would distinguish the development from a pool of candidates from across the state. “This offered me an incredible opportunity as a young designer to have influence over the first multi-family, new construction project of one of the most successful non-profit developers in Ohio.” 

Aspen Place is now making its mark on Cleveland providing needed quality housing for families that offer direct access to job centers and valuable amenities in the city. In its first few months of opening, the property became a space for conversations and reflection on history and place. DSCDO and Cudell Improvement, Inc. jointly hosted through June 30 the interactive Undesign the Redline exhibit in the commercial storefront space at Aspen Place. Undesign the Redline connects discriminatory federal policies and practices from the 1930s to political and social issues of today. The exhibit was free and open to the public. The hope is for Aspen Place to build on this momentum and encourage continued investment in the surrounding community for the benefit of the city as a whole.

Pictured above: Wayne Mortensen, now Cleveland Neighborhood Progress director of design and development, with St. Luke’s based Intergenerational School principal and executive director, Brooke King, and Silvia Kruger

Wayne Mortensen (2010-2013), Saint Luke’s Hospital

Wayne Mortensen worked on the adaptive reuse of Saint Luke’s Hospital in Buckeye in 2010, collaborating with community members, public and private partners to transform the abandoned historic hospital. Now, Saint Luke’s is home to 137 affordable senior apartments and 64,000 square feet of commercial space, a K-8 charter school, a Boys & Girls Club, Early Childhood Learning Center, and the headquarter offices for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and the Saint Luke’s Foundation. Enterprise invested a total of $42 million to revitalize the property through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal Historical Tax Credits, New Markets Tax Credits and bridge loans. It was a catalytic investment in the Buckeye neighborhood helping to attract more than $150 million of additional investment into the surrounding community on Cleveland’s East Side. Wayne’s design meant that community leaders and school officials could see past the rubble and standing water to the potential of a revitalized building. 

“Hosting our 10th annual Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute in Cleveland is meaningful for Enterprise given our commitment to the community as we continue to think long term about how to create strong, healthy communities with opportunity for all,” said Elizabeth Richards, senior program director, Ohio, Enterprise. “We invite Cleveland to join us at the keynote address, “Designing for Dignity: How Neighborhood Development Can Do More,” as we explore the path forward in Cleveland and around the country.”

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