Naomi Sabel, Ben Ezinga, and Josh Rosen founded Sustainable Community Associates while they were undergraduates at Oberlin College.
At the time, between final exams and worrying about their futures, they had no idea their initial conversations about how to help improve the town of Oberlin would turn into an almost two-decade partnership. Among the common threads over the years have been copious amounts of coffee, amazing mentors, a strong mixture of idealism and realism, and the belief that real estate development, when done well, is a synthesis of good business and catalytic change.
SCA owns, manages and maintains all of their properties—working with a dedicated staff who share their vision and sense of stewardship.
SUSTAINABLE DESIGN PRINCIPLES
All of our Cleveland projects, which include four completed multi-family residences and one currently under construction, are Enterprise Green Communities Certified or will be upon completion. The East College Street Project in Oberlin was part of the USGBC LEED Neighborhood Development Pilot Program.
Regardless of points or certifications, we invest heavily in the envelopes and thermal efficiencies of our buildings—always exceeding requirements. In one project we implemented an energy-use monitoring system so that residents and businesses can track in real time how their consumption compares to those around them. In another, we integrated a series of bioswales and rain gardens into the landscaping. In yet another project, we designed such a thermally-efficient envelope that apartments typically heat or cool for less than a dollar per day.
We design to maximize natural light and fresh air, and emphasize the use of sustainable and nontoxic materials. Our goal is always to reduce the water and energy consumption of, and ultimately the energy expense for, our tenants.
WORKING WITH COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS
Our work and commitment extends beyond the building itself. We create public, outdoor spaces that welcome our neighbors in and invest in businesses like Leavened and Tremont Athletic Club that become neighborhood assets and destinations.
We’ve worked with local block clubs to install wayfinding signage for the neighborhood, register voters, organize food drives for neighbors in need, and support the local schools. This focus resonates with those who become residents in our communities. They often become engaged, active neighborhood advocates, frequently donating and volunteering within the communities that we work.
OUR COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Our development projects all share the values of inclusion, celebration, and expansion.
We seek to make sure that everyone knows they are welcome with us. That people of various gender identities, cultures, sexual preferences, and races seek out our buildings when looking for housing is a source of tremendous pride for SCA. We know that to foster these communities we have to find ways to support access. We use the strength of the public-private partnerships that we’ve built and diverse funding sources to advance these commitments to diversity and inclusion.
At The Tappan, this meant utilizing the Opportunity Zone Tax Credit to develop a new program with PNC Bank that kept 60% of the units designated as workforce housing and accessible for people at 100% or less of area median income.
In Oberlin, this meant successfully seeking out a social impact investment of over $2 million, which enabled a third of the units, which were identical to their market rate neighbors, to be held for people making under $30,000 a year.
We seek to celebrate the neighborhoods we are fortunate enough to work in. We want our neighbors to know we are here to embrace what already makes this neighborhood a special place—not reinvent it.
In AsiaTown, we focus on neighborhood advocacy, not just building marketing. We spotlight and highlight the women-, minority-, and immigrant-owned businesses around our developments. We mobilize our residents as new customers to these businesses, and are an ally in making sure this neighborhood is supported by residents and communities outside of AsiaTown. We have seen firsthand that what results through this approach is a community of individuals who have an interest in becoming stewards and advocates of the place where they live, not outsiders looking to change its identity.
Our projects can and should elevate the importance of this community while simultaneously strengthening the local economy. When managed and re-developed appropriately, our projects expand what people know about the neighborhoods that we work in and open their eyes to present and future possibilities. Our work is also an expansion of what the neighborhood thinks is possible when all are invited to participate in its future.