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By Jeanne Starmack
Imagine Warren with its empty lots having been redeveloped to include new styles of topography or native plants that were long lost.
Some of those lots might include community gardens and farmers markets.
One might include a playground with equipment made from all those old tires that you’ll no longer see at the empty lots.
Now imagine that you can drive down to the peninsula, and it’s packed full of amenities.
There’s transportation, a childhood-development center, a retail center, an educational garden, the SCOPE Senior Center, a recreation center/gymnasium, an apartment complex, an artists’ co-op and community theater, Urban League offices, Thumm’s Bike and Clock Shop, a green alleyway and a retail and housing area.
Students from Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design not only imagined it, they put a lot of work and talent into making the designs for it to become a reality.
They partnered with Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to work in the city in the Garden District, 16 other vacant lots and the peninsula.
They saw what was there, what the possibilities are, and asked people what they’d like to see in the city.
On Wednesday evening, they presented their project designs at the Wean Foundation Offices in Warren.
Those designs are beneficial to the city and to the students, said Matt Martin, director of TNP.
“We have all these free ideas, and they get to use our city as a canvas,” he said.
“We try to provide programs that train students for jobs, but it’s much more than that,” said Douglas L. Steidl, dean of the CAED. “We ask who they are, what they stand for, and the values they hold.”
The Master of Landscape Architecture students worked on the plans for the vacant lots, while the Architectural Studies students took on the peninsula.
The graduate students, broken into three teams, presented their ideas first.
Conner Karakul and Jessie Hawkins focused on the Garden District, where empty lots scatter through neighborhoods in confusing ways, said Karakul.
“We looked for design themes,” said Hawkins, “with streetscapes for continuity to fill in gaps.”
That included traditional fencing and greenery, she added.
In the northwest portion of the district, large spaces would allow for experimental topography. In a more-traditional neighborhood, a meadow-look would be appropriate, they said.
On a corner lot, an open space would encourage people to pass through, while native grasses, evergreens and hollies would line the streets.
For Elliot Killen, tasked with redesigning 16 empty lots, three basic themes were a help: reuse, community engagement and aesthetics.
At 426 and 428 Iowa St., Killen planned a playground with equipment built from “repurposed” old tires.
At 179 Oregon Ave., Killen imagined mixed-use community space, with a community garden in the back and a farmers market in the front.
Shredded tires and wood chips, he said, are low-maintenance ground cover.
Backing up those two teams were Adrian Marti and Reuben Shaw.
Marti worked on vacancy typologies, he said, that determined what was present on a site that “pushed it toward specific design goals,” such as soil characteristics and whether there was running water.
He said he saw huge opportunities for community spaces in Warren.
“There is like a heart beating here, and you can focus your design toward the river,” he said.
Shaw, who is from Warren, came up with his own Vacancy Decision Matrix. It answers questions to determine what should go on a lot: What size is the lot? Is the lot a corner lot, a vacant lot, or a lot neighboring a house? Does this lot connect streets?
If the lot connects streets, you wouldn’t use it for a retention pond. But it would be a great spot for consolidated parking.
Hannah McGowan, a senior at Kent State, had a major challenge with space. She worked on the peninsula projects, and her plot of land is “90 feet by 100 feet.”
“We asked a couple of natives what they want to see,” she said, “and they said, ‘a gym!’”
So McGowan set out to design one. It can’t have a pool, because of space constraints. But it does have a fitness room for yoga and spinning, a cardio room with treadmills, a day-care center, a lounge, a basketball court and a juice bar.