From the Ground Up: A Million Dollars Worth of [marketing] Houses for [SU] the Near West side area

A couple sentences and some images of sexy architecture is all the explanation prospective and new students get about the From the Ground Up project. And this project is marketed extensively as it is probably the most costly intervention the School of Architecture at SU has participated in. I say “participated in” instead of “completely responsible for” because after talking to the Director of Upstate, Mark Norman, Becky and I learned how limited a role the School of Architecture actually played in the project. Mark was put in as director not long after From the Ground Up was completed.

Mark defends From the Ground up because it accomplished goals like building three new houses and the educating of the city of implementing sustainable energy systems in them, but it failed at others like the goal of affordability ($80,000 each). Each house in the end cost from $250,000-$350,000. These prices were subsidized down to $90,000 each, but this was still way to expensive for anyone to purchase from the neighborhood so people from outside the neighborhood bought them instead. Not only that but no bank would not even give loans on the houses because they appraised much lower then the very subsidized prize because of their location. A local non profit organization, Home Headquarters who donated the three vacant lots, now begrudgingly hold the mortgages.

Was the education purposes worth spending $1 million on houses that are too expensive to be reproduced again? You have to ask yourself how you wold raise $1 million dollars to build more but lower cost houses that aren’t as sexy? That would be too boring to raise funds. And the explanation to prospective students that the houses aren’t ¬†as awesome looking but we were able to build more of them instead of just a sexy picture? well, that would just take too long.

Kenneth Russell

One Comment

  1. Was there any specific factor that increased the prices of the homes? And do you know how involved the neighborhood was involved with the construction of the homes (before they found out they wouldn’t be able to afford them)? An idea of a new competition brief was brought up last class for your project, and since affordability is such an important factor, (while still taking into account aesthetics and durability), I think cost-saving tactics would be at the heart of the brief if you chose to go that route. For example, if potential buyers worked on the houses as a sort of down payment to decrease labor costs – (but I also realize these people must be busy to maintain their current livelihood..) Just something to think about.

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