Firm Building Modern Home in Linden Hopes it’s the First of Many

Brent Warren Brent Warren Firm Building Modern Home in Linden Hopes it’s the First of ManyRenderings by Moody Nolan.
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What started as one company’s desire to do something more tangible with a share of its annual corporate giving has turned into a modern, 750-square-foot home, now under construction in Linden.

In February, a soon-to-be-selected family will be given the keys to the home. And, later that month, the firm behind the house giveaway plans to announce an initiative geared toward encouraging more development in the neighborhood.

Curtis Moody, founder and CEO of the architecture firm Moody Nolan, hopes that the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on McClelland Avenue is only the beginning of something much bigger. He is calling it a “Legacy Project,” and he says the company will design one house like it per year, in each of the 12 cities it operates in nationwide.

As with the Linden house, Moody Nolan will look to bring in local companies and organizations from their network to donate materials and expertise. The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) donated the land for the house, and YMCA of Central Ohio and Southeast Inc. are working to select the family. Because of tax abatements in place for the Linden neighborhood, the family will only be responsible for utilities and maintenance.

“At the end of last year, when we looked at our giving, I talked to our partners and said, guys I think we can be more effective,” said Moody. “So we determined we’re going to take 50 percent of what we give a year, and concentrate it into something tangible…to design something for a neighborhood that would need help.”

It’s a project that sparked the imagination of the firm’s employees — in addition to designing the house, staff raised over $3,000 to fully furnish it.

Moody described the design concept as an expansion of the tiny house trend, with family-friendly features like private bedrooms and a porch that faces the street but also provides access to a backyard garden area. And, because a small house is something that designers of every level of experience can contribute ideas to, the project inspired a lot of discussion — and debate — in the office.

“We wanted to design something that a young professional — that any of us, if we were going to buy a small home — would be happy in,” Moody said. “Part of our problem, and this happens with designing for low income housing, people say, ‘They don’t need anything that looks really nice, we’re doing them a favor,’ and we said no [to that].”

However, as much as the Linden home has inspired members of his team and drawn in other businesses to participate, “We recognize that it’s just one little dent” in a much larger problem, said Moody.

To that end, Moody made a speech last year to the Columbus chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) challenging other design firms to take on legacy projects of their own. One company has already taken him up on the challenge, he said, and has committed $50,000 toward designing and building a house to give away in a Columbus.

Moody plans to take that speech on the road, to the AIA chapters in each of the cities with a Moody Nolan office. Also in the works is a TED talk about the project and a series of initiatives meant to lower some of the barriers that developers face when looking to build new homes on scattered lots in an urban neighborhood like Linden.

“We’ve determined that we need to go a step further, and we have created what we’re calling Linden Reimagined,” he said, a collection of designs, both contemporary and traditional, for houses that could be built on one of the many Land Bank parcels in the area.

“We’re not inexpensive, when you hire us as an architect, but what if we could eliminate that cost?” Moody said, adding that he also hoped to build a model of at least one of the designs, and maybe even feature several of them in a Parade of Homes-like event.

A timeline for that initiative has not been established, but Moody hopes that it could in some way become a part of the city’s larger commitment to revitalizing Linden and to funding affordable housing.

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