Taylor Dolven, Senior Staff Writer

Five Miami University students have teamed up with CR architecture + design, an architecture firm based out of Cincinnati, to renovate a building in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.

The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has been plagued with disinvestment and underdevelopment, according John Blake, on-site coordinator.When Miami first got involved with the region in the 1990s, the university made a big effort to improve the community for the people who live there.

The five students will help to renovate the 1405-07 Republic Project building located in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine region.

Tom Dutton, an architecture professor, created the Miami University Center for Community Engagements in Over-the-Rhine. Through his ties with the community, students have been able to work with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing for more than 13 years.

The group moved through Over-the-Rhine project by project, renovating buildings and creating affordable housing. When they were approached about the five-story building on Republic Street, the students knew they would need a professional collaborator.

“At the pace of our former projects, if we approached the building in the same fashion, it would take us another 10 years,” Blake said. “Things needed to happen quicker than that.”

It was fate when Blake ran into former Miami schoolmate Graham Kalbli on the Cincinnati sidewalk. Kalbli works at CR architecture + design and proposed the idea of a partnership for the Republic Street project.

“He suggested having students come and take up cubicles in his office,” Blake said. “They would have all the expertise and resources of the firm at their disposal.”

With that suggestion, students decided to do just that. Through this collaboration, students are drafting the transformation of this abandoned building to provide the community with low-income housing, according to Blake.

Without these five Miami students, the renovation may not have been possible. The architectural phase of drafting a renovation of this size is very expensive, according to John Weigand, chair of architecture and interior design.

“The project may actually happen because of the students,” Weigand said.

According to Blake, this project is providing the community with what would amount to tens of thousands of dollars in architectural fees. Michael Haddy, Kaitlin Beckham, Alex Libengood, Ben Romero and Beth Calvelage are in control of this real-life project.

In this economic climate, architecture students are not getting job opportunities, Blake said. This experience is helping students get academic and professional credit they need to become architects.

“I am amazed at the caliber of the students,” Blake said. “All I have to do is make sure they get the right resources and they do the work.”

Beckham, who left to study abroad for the semester, wrote on her blog about the friendliness at CR architect + design.

“I have never met so many people willing to offer their expertise, insight, and guidance to help propel our beloved 1405-07 Republic project,” Beckham’s blog read. “I have learned a great deal in my short time here, and will forever treasure this experience.”

The interaction between Miami students, professional architects and makes this project unique.

“It looks like it’s going to be a lot of work, but well worth it once 1405-07 is not only restored to the beauty that she was more than 100 years ago, but able to meet the needs of the people here today,” Libengood’s blog said.

By April, the group will have the architectural documents that will allow the owner of the building to get the project funded.

“Everybody wins,” Blake said.

To access the group’s blog at http://140507republic.wordpress.com/ to follow their journey.

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