ReVITALize: Urban Intervention in Akron's Highland Square
Advisor:Jones, Kay Bea
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Architecture Honors Theses; 2008
Neighborhood gentrification is defined as a phenomenon in which physically deteriorated neighborhoods undergo renovation and an increase in property values. Frequently, an influx of wealthier residents displaces the prior community. Gentrification can happen as a result of neighborhood revitalization, and often results in a loss of history, community, and character in an urban neighborhood. In age where contemporary design movements, such as New Urbanism, look for a solution to urban sprawl, inner city neighborhoods provide prime real estate for residents looking to return to a metropolitan lifestyle without upsetting existing greenfield sites. Urban revitalization plans look to restore these neighborhoods, making them more appealing and safe for a wave of middle-class residents on the move. While some neighborhood revitalization plans intend to accommodate mixed-income residents, revitalization efforts can lead to the displacement of native residents if they can no longer afford the taxes of their inflated properties. The principles of New Urbanism are a collection of good urban design strategies that have the potential to effectively influence neighborhood revitalization. Although New Urbanism projects have been heavily critiqued, I feel that these principles would be best applied as means of revitalization as they address urban design issues that would create a pedestrian friendly, mixed use, and mixed income environment. My interest lies in the social responsibility of architecture and urban design that, when overlooked, results in gentrification disguised as neighborhood revitalization. These findings beg the question: Can neighborhood revitalization provide both low-income, native residents with innovative, architecturally appealing housing alternatives while also creating viable options for a middle-class wave of residents on the move? The site for this design project is a neighborhood of Akron, OH called Highland Square, an eclectic neighborhood located several miles from downtown along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, West Market Street. Highland Square has seen a recent phase of neighborhood revitalization that has proved more consequential than beneficial, with the recent closures of local restaurants and the failure to lease new commercial space, resulting in a loss of services to the community. My interest lies in creating an urban design proposal that would increase the density of the neighborhood by providing viable housing options for residents with a range of incomes, while integrating public services. The main goal of the project is to examine and redesign housing typologies as they are relevant to the site revitalization while applying principles of urban design as well as design principles already set forth by the Highland Square Development Association. I intend to design multiple housing solutions that may adaptable to different blocks of the site. In addition to designing housing approaches, I plan to design other mixed-use commercial and residential buildings that increase the public services in Highland Square.
4th Place in Arts and Architecture at Denman Research Forum