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Oberlin project gets LEED-ND nod

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/14/07 @ 4:11pm

What sets Oberlin's East College Street Project apart? Maybe it's the trio leading the development are a.) still in their twenties b.) recent Oberlin College grads who are sticking around and pouring their ideas of social entrepreneurship into a small Ohio town c.) they raised $16 million for their first development, promising to make it green and affordable d.) all of the above

Much ink has been devoted to the youth and greenness of Sustainable Community Associates' principals Josh Rosen, Ben Ezinga and Naomi Sabel, but equal space has been accorded their vision, the buy-in from 'the establishment' and cooperation from a city with a slow growth outlook.

While traditional town centers continue to disappear in favor of Sprawl-Marts along the highway, these prodigies are shooting for something like open-source development.

Instead of asking a question like "can this site generate X% return on my money?" we asked "what could this site do for this downtown and the people of this community?" their web site reads.

"We had an opportunity to start something which tried to address long standing challenges that Oberlin faces. We saw a need for high-quality affordable housing, a need for new business and job creation, and a need to bring more people downtown."

The latest feather in their cap? SCA just got word from the U.S. Green Building Council that theirs will be one of the half-dozen or so pilot projects from Northeast Ohio that applied for the new LEED-Neighborhood Development (ND) rating. How will this new ripple impact their plans?

"Regardless of the LEED-ND pilot we will still design the individual buildings to achieve LEED Gold-New Construction," Sabel says. "It's not really a matter of one being better than the other-I think (USGBC) is trying to approach and systematize green design from different vantage points.

"LEED-ND is much more focused on context while LEED-NC focuses primarily on building systems and performance. They do overlap a lot but I think that's the general difference. It seems as though LEED-ND rating is heavily influenced by where you develop and how the structures integrate into the community."

The East College Street Project will break ground in the fall of 2007 and is a public-private-philanthropic partnership with funders including the Enterprise Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, the City of Oberlin, the Kendeda Fund and private banking institutions.

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