Local groups make house a home

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The Columbus chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has teamed up with Creative Housing – a non-profit housing developer in Franklin County – to build an addition for a group home at 340 Derrer Rd.

The group home, which was built in 1981 for five people with disabilities, now strains to house its eight residents. Creative Housing and AIA Columbus have been renovating the site since June 28, and hope to have the project in its final stages by late August.

Creative Housing, a long-time developer in Franklin County and the largest provider of accessible housing in the state, currently owns approximately 400 units in Franklin County and oversees over 1400 tenants.

The company receives both public and private funding, and works to acquire properties that are then leased back to tenants at below-market rents. The organization renovates more than 200 homes annually in central Ohio.

“We strive to make our units the best on the block,” says Tim Oberschlake, a developer for the organization. Obershlake’s company has worked with AIA Columbus twice before, and he welcomes the group’s assistance and experience this summer as the two companies work together to accommodate all eight residents.

While Creative Housing is the largest company of its kind in the nation, Oberschlake maintains that AIA Columbus approached him for the project.

“I’m pretty sure that AIA got the idea from that television show Extreme Makeover,” he confesses. “But in general they are looking to give back to the community, as well as to get some of their newer members some hands-on experience.”

“We just want to improve the living situation of our residents,” he added.

AIA volunteers have so far spent a few hours each day knocking out drywall, shoveling concrete, and assisting in the rearrangement of the floor plan, while Creative Housing has handled the cost of materials and provides the majority of the project’s oversight. AIA designers plan to update the laundry and bathroom facilities as well.

Patsy Frost, chairman of AIA Columbus, commented on the enthusiasm and excitement she has seen from both the residents and her development team.

“We’ve had a few meetings with the residents regarding the possible disruption of their living situation during the construction, but they are in too high of spirits to even mind all the commotion.”

T-shirts designed for the crew read “A Space of Their Own,” a motto that highlights both the relief and promise that a separate living space can provide for the residents.

“They are very excited,” Frost points out. “We know that they can’t wait to call this home again.”

Diane Deane, AIA Columbus’ Executive Director, is also brimming with optimism. “We too are excited about this opportunity to show the community outreach aspect of architecture by putting architects and designers in touch with real people in real place with real needs.”

AIA Columbus, a 750-member local chapter of the national AIA organization that boasts over 80,000 members, truly does have a notable resume when it comes to philanthropic work.

Last year their crew built an addition on a home for a Clintonville family with an autistic son, and in 2005 the group constructed two concrete handicap ramps on a duplex for two families with accessibility needs. The firm also spends three weeks each year educating central Ohio high school students whose career ambitions are in art and design.

“We’re trying to touch multiple segments of the community,” Frost says with a hint of pride. “It’s really the least we can do.”

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