Students gain real-word experience in urban design

Andrea Delph

Kent State architecture and interior design students are designing, reinventing and constructing to prevent the further demolition of Cleveland’s historic neighborhoods.

One out of every five properties in East Cleveland is abandoned, according to data from Case Western Reserve University

The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative is an outreach division where Kent State architecture, urban design and landscape students complete their curriculum by participating in the designing and reconstructing of vacant homes in order to make them profitable once again.

“Architects don’t necessarily get that building experience,” said Andrea Bruno, housing manager of St. Clair Superior Development Corporation. “It’s the first of its kind because students usually design hypothetical buildings and never get the chance to build it out; this is what was missing in the curriculum.”

The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative has been awarded $9,000 by the Ohio Historical Society in efforts to assist with funds in rehabilitating historic and traditional housing in Northeast Ohio that is on the decline. 

“Right now there are probably around 8-10,000 vacant houses in the city of Cleveland that might get demolished,” said Terry Schwarz, the director of Kent State CUDC. 

“We are the college of architecture, which means we love architecture, so we’re trying to reconstruct homes to see if they can be spared the demolition and put back into the use for people to live in,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said the houses that are being discussed are not grand landmarks but are ordinary. Nonetheless, she said that they make up the historic fabric of the neighborhood. 

Third-year architecture and second-year interior design students from Kent State’s campus are currently completing their first housing restoration project located on 1045 E. 67th Street in the St. Clair and Superior neighborhoods on Cleveland’s East Side.

Architecture students worked on the design portion last spring, built it out last summer and interior design students are currently working on figuring out the best configuration with what’s currently there, Bruno said.

“If you see the building, it’s kind of an architect’s dream,” Bruno said. “The previous owners had a lot of problems with the property, and that is when we were approached to take it over and help it get out of its current state.” 

Bruno said that at first they did not have a plan, but they loved the building and believed it was a valuable piece of the neighborhood they had to save.

“Although this is the first project, this opens opportunity to work with other vacant homes that could potentially be salvageable within a close proximity of the house,” Bruno said. “We’re hoping to lay our roots within this neighborhood so that Kent State University can continue on with this project.” 

Schwarz said there has been a lot of excitement within the community around this one particular project.

“Although not completed, its brick foundation and flat roofing has turned it into something like a lofted space,” Bruno said. “This will be a great space for a family starting out or even become a home for a young professional.”

Schwarz said they are hoping to finish everything with their next summer construction class so they can reveal the house in the fall with plans to ultimately sell it.

Contact Andrea Delph at [email protected].