Alums Go for Green on E. College St.
The East College Street Project made new headway this summer after the US Green Building Council welcomed the project’s participation in the new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development pilot program. The developers — Naomi Sabel, OC ’02; Ben Ezinga and Josh Rosen, both OC ’01 — collaborate under the name of Sustainable Community Associates. The SCA seeks to benefit the community with green development and, to this end, the USGBC seems to be a perfect fit.
LEED-ND, the result of a partnership between the USGBC, the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council, intends to ensure that each development participating in the program meets its major goal of sustainability “according to the principles of smart growth, new urbanism and green building.” LEED-ND also stresses that development can have an impact on public health in a community, affecting a community’s mental health as well as its rate of car accidents.
The pilot program will end next year and open up to public comment. After perfecting its standards with projects such as development in Oberlin, the program intends to pursue new building policies nationwide.
SCA is aiming high, attempting to earn Gold-level certification in green building standards. Reaching this level will require scoring at least 60 out of 106 points in 49 optional categories such as solar orientation and reduced automobile dependence. The nine building aspects required for certification include floodplain avoidance and agricultural land conservation.
Rosen commented on SCA’s website: “Building on the success of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, this will further establish Oberlin, both the college and the town, as a national leader in sustainable design.”
Ezinga added, “This town has always been at the forefront of environmental and community issues, so it’s fitting that Oberlin would play a part in this national pilot. We and our architects, Integrated Architecture of Grand Rapids, Michigan, have put a lot of thought into how this building can help move the downtown in a more environmentally sustainable direction and we hope that some of our ideas get incorporated into this policy on a national level.”
Ezinga also expressed enthusiasm about recently jumping “one of the last big hurdles” before construction can begin. The Board of Directors of Lorain National Bank approved construction and permanent financing for the project this past June. Ezinga shared that he sees “a light at the end of the tunnel,” with some legal paperwork being the only obstacle left before SCA can break ground.
The development will provide both housing and a commercial center. The commercial space will be geared toward new business owners, ideally recent Oberlin College graduates, who do not necessarily have the funds to open storefronts in the downtown area. SCA has dual goals of keeping alumni in Oberlin and revitalizing the town with new financial prospects.
After getting off to a bumpy start with opposition from city council members due to the relative inexperience of the project’s leaders, the project has made a series of significant gains, including securing a $30,000 grant from the Civic Innovation Lab — an arm of the environmentally friendly Cleveland Foundation — in November 2006.
Sabel sees a great deal of promise in this most recent achievement both in terms of local interests and policy across the country: “The LEED-ND classification represents a significant step forward in evaluating sustainable design, from looking at a single building to looking at whole neighborhoods and systems. We’re excited that the organization making these nationwide policies has taken notice of what we’re trying to accomplish in Oberlin.”
The East College Street Project hopes to break ground this coming March.