In our last design charette of the semester, the studio focused on economy as an urban system, this time taking a much more analytically and research oriented approach. My partner and I specifically looked at the Cleveland neighborhoods of Hough and Glenville. Both these neighborhoods experienced an immense economic downturn after the civil rights movement and riots of the 1960's and have been struggling to recover ever since.

A once affluent area, adjacent to many of the regions top cultural institutions [Rockefeller Park and Cultural Gardens, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, and a multitude of nationally recognized museums, orchestras, playhouses] is suffering from events from the past, and has not been able to make an economic recovery. The area has been left with dilapidated houses, vacant lots, and a negative reputation that will be hard to overturn.

With the help of Community Development Corporations [like the Famicos Foundation opperating in Glenville and Hough] and Cleveland's Neighborhood Progress Inc., initiatives such as the Strategic Investment Initiative are put into place to help revitalize and reinvigorate blighted neighborhoods like Glenville and Hough. For this project, my partner and I analyzed and researched the methods that are being used to restore a stable economy in these neighborhoods.

When looking into these two similar areas, it became apparent that there were two distinct methodologies being used to revitalize the neighborhoods. In Hough, where there was far more vacancy and hardship as a result of the fires and rioting in the 60's, a strategy is being utilized that we labeled as "suburban transplantation." Starting with a clean slate, multiple lots have been combined and large, sprawling suburbanesque homes are constructed and transplanted into the urban and historic fabric of the area. This urban "experient" has left the area with a very surreal appearance, and is reminiscent of an episode from the twilight zone. Eerily silent streets are the home to sparkling 3,500 square foot mcmansions sited next to boarded up homes and overgrown vacant lots littered with trash. These suburban homes were sprinkled through the neighborhood with the intention to spark a trend through the perception of 'the good life,' but what has resulted could be the set to a post apocalyptic zombie horror film. 

This is in stark contrast to the revitalization approach being taken in Glenville. "Heritage Lane" in Glenville is seeking to update, refresh, and revitalize what little remains in an attempt to salvage the spirit and feel of the historic and once prestigious area. Glenville has the advantage of being a stones through away from the cultural institutions of University Circle. Coupled with the approach of embracing the the spirit of its historic homes, it seems to be a much more successful revitalization approach. Heritage Lane also had the advantage of being infused with a surplus of investment from the strategic investment initiative. 

For the final five weeks of the semester, I will be looking into the Glenville neighborhood, specifically the anchor project of Heritage Lane as well as a more vacant area within the neighborhood, and will be designing the Strategic Investment Initiative 2.0 using everything we have learned from the urban systems of transportation, open space, hydrology, ecology, and economy. 

I am excited for these last 5 weeks because I have personally gained a level of understanding of urban systems that I had never expected. Through the analytic and research driven approach of the last 5 projects, the studio has been armed with an array of tools to make informed decisions that can be sensitive and responsible for human, ecological, and economical needs. By making design decisions in this manor, truly good design can be achieved.


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