Sustainable urban village block rises in Ohio

Regular readers may be familiar with the East College Street Project, a sustainable urban village in Oberlin, Ohio proposed in 2002 by three graduate students, now known as Sustainable Community Associates. Check out previous entries about the project from 2009, 2006, 2005 and 2004.

It’s such a great story, that we’re continuing to tell it. Here’s what’s been happening since the past year, according to Josh Rosen, one of the founding three. It’s even framed with the same questions as last year, but with a timeframe of one year past and one year out:

What has been the biggest surprise?
“This probably sounds naive, but this being our first project almost every construction milestone was a surprise to us. I don’t think we truly understood what we were creating until it unfolded in front of our eyes. Now that we are at construction’s conclusion, seeing how fantastic the living spaces have turned out and how all of the time we put into the floor plans, daylighting, expansive windows, etc. is really paying off, and creating special spaces is a pleasant surprise.”

Most significant challenge?
“Pulling off a seventeen million dollar project with such a small company. Ben, Naomi and I are the only three employees of SCA. We do everything from manage construction to act as our own realtor and leasing agent to waiting in line at the post office to mail marketing material to potential buyers. I think we better understand why typically only larger firms take on projects like this – each of us has found gray hairs over the last year! That said, the fact that we are small and involved in every detail has helped make this a special project. For example when we discovered that we had to remove a walnut tree we had it milled and turned into window sills for the condos. Being involved in details like this was time consuming, but ultimately worth every second spent.
Our biggest challenge moving forward is to figure out how to continue doing other transformative projects. We’ve seen the positive difference responsible real estate development can make and would love to continue to find opportunities to contribute to other communities realizing some of their aspirations.”

What is Sustainable Community Associates’ hope for the project?
“To date before our model unit is even open two-thirds of our residential units are either sold or rented. On the retail side 4 of our 5 space are leased and all to locally-owned businesses. So our short-term hope is that we are able to sell and lease the remaining spaces as soon as possible. Our long-term hope is that people take note of our project and begin to invest in Oberlin like we did. There’s a lot of work left to be done. The town desperately needs a new hotel and conference center; old buildings need significant reinvestment; and it would be great to see Oberlin become a leader in solar and wind generation.”

Read more about the project’s green LEED vision here.

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