Alison Mears (faculty), Kevin McQueen (faculty), Julia Gorton (faculty) and students from the Milano Community Development Finance Lab and Parsons Architectural Design, Interior Design and Communications Design programs

The Finance Lab at Milano and Parsons’ design and communications studios worked with the Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles, CA to create an innovative solution to homelessness, by expanding the existing typology of permanent supportive housing to one of permanently “empowering” housing. Tapping into the creative voices and engaging the Skid Row community at all levels, the students from Milano and Parsons combined financial analyses and models with art and design strategies to create transformational housing that supports urban vibrancy and creates new places to live, learn and rebuild lives. The final product of their efforts was a proposal for the renovations and refinancing of an existing structure (The Produce Building), which will incorporate fine arts and design interventions that respond specifically to the lives of local residents and the rebirth of the neighborhood.

Communities around the world are no longer waiting for governments or businesses to take action but are doing it themselves and in partnership with others. With a combination of public and private interests, working with architects, urban planners, artists and designers, policy and finance experts who all shape a new urban ecology and topography, impact land divisions and property structures, define urban precincts and building blocks, and redesign open space and the infrastructure of the city, we are wielding our design tools to re-imagine the city and its use and giving our partners assets that they can us to pursue financial support and explain their vision.

Relationship to framing questions
To be successful, participatory community development or creative place-making should be dynamic and involve citizens and multiple disciplines at many levels.  Places must also allow for the spontaneous and a variety of experiences and encounters in order to generate vibrancy. Through our work with local partners, the Milano / Parsons will utilize design, art and financial sustainability strategies and techniques to celebrate community and bring vibrancy to public spaces, and thereby make connections between buildings and communities, just as we did in Los Angeles with the Skid Row Housing Trust.