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Tiny homes coming to Cleveland EcoVillage

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/30/15 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Biking, Transit, Green buildings, Walking

Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) and Citizens Bank have plans to build Cleveland’s first two tiny homes.

Tiny homes—on trailers or on hard-to-build lots—are popping up across the U.S. They’ve had their Portlandia moment. Shareable reports that 11 tiny home villages are in design or under construction.

Small is beautiful<br />Final design for the tiny home slated for the Cleveland EcoVillage. Image: Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.<br />Cleveland tiny home is based on Colorado firm Tumbleweed's Widbey model. Image from Tumbleweed (shown with modifications).

They are driving a space-based agenda of reduced consumption and energy use. They’ve even started to arrive in slow-growth markets like Cleveland and Cincinnati, which broke ground on the state’s first tiny home this month.

Detroit Shoreway is planning to break ground in 2016 on two tiny homes, measuring a cozy 580 square feet each, over a single, vacant lot at W. 58th Street and Pear—in walking distance to the W. 65th Street (Red Line) Rapid station. Citizens Bank Charitable Foundation initiated the project and awarded a $140,000 grant for design and construction.

Cleveland may appear to be arriving late to the right-sized living space trend. But tiny homes are a natural extension of a decade-long experiment in ecological community building called the Cleveland EcoVillage. The brainchild of then-EcoCity Cleveland director, David Beach, and Wendy Kellogg, a professor of urban planning and environmental studies at Cleveland State University, the EcoVillage project jumpstarted the building of Cleveland’s first, green multi-family residences—20 town home units, also at W. 58th Street and Pear, in 2004.

EcoVillage origins

The Cleveland EcoVillage departs from the utopian vision of ecovillage as rural enclave for the well-to-do and instead aims for the equitable revitalization of an existing urban neighborhood. An early initiative was a campaign to save the Rapid Station from closure. It led RTA to agree on a $4 million rebuild as part of a vision of a walkable, low-carbon neighborhood within a 1/4 mile radius of the station.

With development oriented around the transit stop, surveys have found that residents of the EcoVillage have cut their drive-alone percentage by 16% below the city average, increased transit commutes by 30%, and doubled bike commutes.

The EcoVillage focuses, too, on improving access to green space and food. In 2004, a design charrette was held at the Michael Zone Recreation Center. It led to a vision of ecological restoration for the land around the center—reimagining the grounds with native trees, butterfly and food gardens and water features. The EcoVillage also organized a community garden on a vacant property and developed a community walking path through the alleys of the neighborhood.

In 2007, DSCDO developed a succession of model, green building projects—mostly, older-home retrofits for energy reduction. This led to a pilot in small(er) living, dubbed the Green Cottage.

At 1,100 square feet for new single-family home, the Green Cottage was small for the time. However, the building cost was high (approximately $240 per square foot) because it achieved the top green building rating, LEED Platinum for Homes, according to EcoVillage project manager Adam Davenport. The upfront cost has been mitigated by the low operating cost of $400 a year for heating and cooling and the low transportation cost at the location. Still, no more green cottages have been built. Plans for three more were killed by the recent recession.

Building even smaller

The tiny homes promise to be more different. Starting with a blueprint licensed from the Colorado firm, Tumbleweed, and pro bono design work provided by Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, Erick Rodriguez, the sales price will range from $85,000-100,000. Funding, but also size, will combine to reduce building costs. For example, instead of the cottage’s expensive, high-efficiency furnace, the tiny homes will heat and cool using “mini-split” technology. They will achieve the city’s green building standard, Davenport says, but won’t go for the more expensive LEED certification.

Davenport hopes the tiny homes “enliven” the Cleveland EcoVillage principle of reducing environmental impacts while improving quality of life in a real urban neighborhood.

“I like what they can do,” he said. “They can take some of these un-buildable lots and give an idea...to those waiting on the sidelines. They convey [the EcoVillage principles] outright.”

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6 years ago

e.beal - thanks for your comment. I think you make some good points. The size of these homes, while well below the average American house, which last time I checked is 2,300 sq. ft. is, as you note, on the larger size of the "tiny home" trend. I have seen a cable TV show about tiny homes where the typical size is 250 sq. ft. and the high end of sales costs is around $60,000. The caveat being, most of them are on trailers. My take is the size, the energy efficient construction techniques and the land plus cost to add a driveway and parking pad have figured into the EcoVillage home price. My understanding is, this is the first tiny home to be built, on a lot, and not on a trailer. It also might earn the distinction, I'm told, of receiving the first variance from the city to build a house below its current minimum of 850 sq ft.

6 years ago

There is a difference between "tiny" homes and "small" homes (read Susanka!).

By definition, the two homes to be built are not "tiny" homes, they are small homes.

Also, while these may be the HIGHEST profile
"tiny" homes to be build in Cle, they are NOT only not "tiny," they are not the first one in Cleveland. There is a real/actual tiny home -- and I know this for sure, cuz I toured it -- in a trailer park on the far east side of Cle.

And a question: why in the world is it going to cost $85,000 to $100,000 to build these "small" homes?

Land costs, will contribute to some of that, still the quoted cost seems not just a bit, but quite, high.

And finally, I'm planning on having a small (as opposed to tiny) home build. And I'm NOT planning on paying $85,000 to $100,000 to do so.

E. Beal.

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