The Plain Dealer: “Oberlin College graduates bridge town-gown divide”

The Plain Dealer: “Oberlin College graduates bridge town-gown divide”

It's been clear for a decade or more, writes Steve Litt for The Plain Dealer, that neighborhoods around colleges and universities offer some of the hottest development opportunities in American cities.

But it took three freshly minted graduates of Oberlin College starting in 2002 to see the potential in a vacant former Buick dealership on the tattered eastern flank of downtown Oberlin.

Eight years later, the dealership and two adjacent properties have sprouted the widely acclaimed East College Street Project, which blends apartments and retail shops with street-smart, environmentally friendly architecture.

The $17 million development grew out of an unusual partnership: Three friends decided to stick around after graduating and change their college town for the better -- even though they knew nothing about real estate at the time.

"Had we known what we know now, I don't think we would have tried to do this," said Josh Rosen, president of Sustainable Community Associates.

But Rosen, 31, and his partners, Ben Ezinga, 32, and Naomi Sabel, 30, persevered through challenges that included contaminated soil, a skeptical City Council and a complicated layer cake of financing.

Read Litt's full article in The Plain Dealer.


This article was originally published on October 16, 2010 in The Plain Dealer. For more information on the East College Street Project, visit