A CoolTown block in Ohio

The following is a story from an emerging progressive developer in Ohio, Ben Ezinga. We need a lot more people like him…

“My name is Ben Ezinga.

I’m a young developer/entrepreneur working in Oberlin, Ohio. I graduated from Oberlin College three years ago and stuck around Oberlin with two of my friends to start a real estate development firm. (Actually, we were planning on starting a community center for local youth, centralizing a bunch of innovative programs that we’d been involved in while we were students. Then the development just sort of seemed to make sense as we figured out what it would take to change a town.) We began what was in retrospect a fantastically foolish endeavor, but over the last three years have cobbled together a mix of public, private, and philanthropic funds and are moving through predevelopment architecture and legal work.

Check out our website here to see what we’re up to. It’s a sustainably-designed mixed-use building with some great retail and restaurants lined up for the first floor, and 49 mixed-income condos and apartments for rent, a mixture of live/work and loft-style.

Oberlin’s a funny little creative, artsy college town with a lot of great history, architecture, and ideas, way out in the middle of northeast Ohio farmland. Every year it’s refilled with bright, idealistic young people, but until recently very few of us have seemed to stay here after graduating to apply what we’d learned. There’s some real progress starting to be made here, and it’s fascinating to be involved in the organic emergence of a cooltown while reading about how other cities are trying to plan to become cooltowns.”

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