Sustainable Futures in Linden Village

Sustainable Futures in Linden Village

By Ben Lewis, Director of Communications and Special Projects

The idea of the Sustainable Futures for Linden Village initiative is to provide recommendations and generate visions on how to make the area more livable and how to create healthy neighborhoods. But the project leaders knew that in order to make a real impact, they would need significant input from residents.

If you don't live there and aren't there every day, you have no idea what is going on, said Jesus J. Lara, an assistant professor in the Knowlton School of Architecture and one of the project leads. So we needed to immerse in the community, talk to the residents and interact as much as possible and make the residents part of the process.

The faculty and students on the team met with residents at schools and neighborhood associations, and worked with the Greater Linden Development Corporation (GLDC) to discuss challenges and opportunities of what could be done to help the community. Some of the messages they received from residents included the lack of safety, the continuous decline of the existing housing stock, and the need for jobs in the neighborhood.

Those were some of the main concerns expressed by residents in the neighborhood, Lara said. But the things we propose are catalytic projects that are intended to generate jobs while focusing in social capital and physical infrastructure in the area. One of the students proposed a training center that would help residents start their own businesses, either in food or agriculture. It actually tackles the issues of the lack of jobs and how to generate jobs starting at the small scale.

Leadership on the project is provided by Charisma Acey, assistant professor of City and Regional Planning, Jesus J. Lara from Landscape Architecture, and Victoria Chen, assistant professor in the Construction Systems Management (CSM) program in the Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering.

Having an interdisciplinary group allows them to look at the project from different perspectives and at different scales, Lara said. While Chen focuses on houses and other individual buildings, Lara tackles the neighborhood structure and Acey concentrates on the impact of the area surrounding the neighborhood in the context of the larger metropolitan region.

Sustainability is the key

Environmentally friendly designs are a major emphasis of the initiative. This project offers educational and outreach programs to increase the awareness of local residents and to provide technical assistance that can smoothen and facilitate the sustainable community redevelopment process led by the Greater Linden Development Corporation, Chen said.

During spring quarter, a collaborative event called a charrette will be held to brainstorm ideas for green housing development. It will involve the GLDC, design and construction professionals, Ohio State faculty and students, and Linden Village residents. Residents' needs and expectations will be solicited to prioritize sustainable community and housing development goals and strategies, Chen said.

There are also plans to develop a community green fair during the summer to help raise awareness, and eventually adoption, of energy efficient building features, products and construction methods. This project also supports hands-on learning environments in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills development for local students.

Students developing plans

The Ohio State students working on the project use the knowledge and skills they've learned in the classroom to provide technical assistance in solving real-world problems related to urban revitalization, community economic growth, healthy neighborhoods, and green home development. The idea is to get students involved in the community, Lara said.

The interdisciplinary group of students includes planners, landscape architects and architects. At the end of each quarter, the students produce a document that will prioritize the community's needs based on both qualitative and quantitative research and outreach and engagement events.

It is a very comprehensive plan we are giving to the community, so many perspectives are needed. The report is supposed to serve as a strategic road map that will help guide future development in the area, Lara said. He also noted that in the future they would like to bring in students from the Fisher College of Business to show the economic viability of the solutions his students are developing.

Engagement Impact Grant helps initiative

Sustainable Futures for Linden Village was one of five initiatives across the university to receive an Engagement Impact Grant in 2011 from the Office of Outreach and Engagement. The grant has provided financial support for faculty time, graduate students, course project expenses, and community outreach events since the project started, Chen said.

The Engagement Impact Grant makes a huge difference because it shows we are being supported by the university, Lara said. Then outside organizations see that and take us more seriously. It gives us the opportunity to apply for other grants because they see you already have one from Outreach and Engagement so this project has value and merit. That's what happened with the Columbus Foundation (which has provided additional support for the project).