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Summary: October 19, 2016
Residents from the Moreland neighborhood in Shaker Heights know what they want to see from the Shaker Design Competition, and the overall sentiment from the residents is “we are ready!”
“We’re ready for something new. Something vibrant,” said homeowner Vicki Elder.
Elder’s comment resonated with a gathering of more than 30 residents, architects, civic leaders and developers who met on Wednesday, October 19 for the Shaker Design Competition Interactive Forum at The Dealership co-work space in Shaker Heights.
The Shaker Design Competition seeks new housing that reflects what the residents in this progressive inner-ring suburb want: sustainability, energy-efficiency, and affordability. “[Homes] can be new and still be interesting,” Elder said. “We would love to see something that does stand out and doesn’t stand out. Something that looks like it’s been there.” Residents definitely feel that the neighborhood could embrace a mix of the old and the new.
Shaker is an iconic suburb known for its beautiful, historic homes, most of which were built in the 1920s and 1930s, when builders were limited to English, French and Colonial styles. But the Design Competition (and the City) isn’t limiting submissions to those styles. “It should fit into the [Moreland] neighborhood in terms of mass and materials, but it doesn’t have to match one of the original styles,” Lewis clarified. “The whole point of this [design competition] is innovation.”
Residents who spoke at the meeting explained they want housing that’s suitable for anyone—young and old alike. “In our community, we have lots of families and young children,” said one resident. “We don’t want cookie-cutter homes. Think of something that shows imagination—something fun, something quirky.” Another resident who returned to Shaker from Berkeley, CA, to care for her aging parents hopes for designs that include intergenerational housing and cooperative living concepts. Yet another homeowner told the group, “I want to see this gateway become something that people want to be a part of.”
Representatives from local civic groups also contributed their ideas and reported on trends in new housing. “There is a yearning to live in housing that’s environmentally conscious,” said Mike Foley, Cuyahoga County Director of Sustainability, a Competition partner. “If you can produce housing that minimizes what you’re taking from the grid, that’s what people want.” Citing the volatility of energy costs, he emphasized improving energy efficiency as a way homeowners can have greater control over costs. Shaker Heights Director of Planning Joyce Braverman challenged design-build teams to find the intersection of good design and energy efficiency. “Can developers find a way to make these numbers work?” she asked, adding, “We want new homes with good quality materials and quality designs.”
Local developer and Shaker resident Michael Peters wants design-build teams to keep sustainability and energy efficiency top of mind throughout the design process. “As we think about building something new here in Shaker, we really need to think about incorporating some of these best practices in energy efficiency. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be part of the process. When it’s integrated into the design, it doesn’t have to come at a cost premium,” he said.
Architect Chuck Miller of Doty and Miller spoke passionately about the need for affordable energy efficient housing and the role of scale in making this possible. He said the potential for bringing costs down by utilizing prefab construction could spawn a new industry opportunity for the region. Mr. Miller felt that new housing should meet four criteria: “It should be affordable, durable (last hundreds of years), flexible and beautiful/lovable.” He also reminded the audience that reinvesting in first-ring suburbs is one of the biggest contributions to sustainability.
While the immediate tangible benefit of the Competition will be the new homes built on previously vacant lots, Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) Executive Director Nick Fedor pointed out that “good housing and economic development go hand-in-hand,” and that’s why he sees this infill housing as a perfect complement to the work being done by the SHDC, which is similarly transforming the adjacent commercial corridors. This sentiment was echoed by Liz Schorgl, a longtime local realtor with Howard Hanna, who said that one of the key things that attracted her to this neighborhood when she first moved to Shaker Heights was its walkability and access to everything, including public transit. She sees this as a great neighborhood for artists.