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Historic Preservation students transfer knowledge from classroom to city

August 22, 2017

By: Rachel Stucke

Fellow Ursuline College Historic Preservation student Marissa Agbunag and I spent this summer assessing buildings in seven commercial districts of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. We worked with Cleveland Heights City Planner Kara Hamley O’Donnell, who serves as the city representative to the Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission. The assessment, or survey, is one of the many goals of Cleveland Heights’ master plan.

Cleveland and its suburbs are filled with historic buildings, ones that are landmarks or National Register properties and others that are hidden gems. Cleveland Heights, in particular, was an ideal location to explore a mix of architectural styles and building types. Ursuline’s courses in Architectural History, Conservation Studio, Adaptive Reuse, and others gave us the necessary foundation to succeed during this internship. Due to the proximity of the college to historic sites and neighborhoods, we were able to translate our knowledge from the classroom to the city.

O’Donnell was an excellent mentor to me, as a graduate student, and to Agbunag, as an undergraduate student. After earning an undergraduate degree in Environmental Design, she worked in a few architectural firms and had the opportunity to survey historic buildings in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She then decided to continue her studies, earning a master’s degree in Historic Preservation Planning.  

We’ve learned from O’Donnell’s experience – she has been with the City of Cleveland Heights Planning and Development Department for 22 years. Like us, she interned with the planning department. She was later offered a full-time position as a City Planner. Her success has inspired us to continue our studies and take on any preservation related experience.

With the guidance of O’Donnell and Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission members Mazie Adams and Margaret Lann, who is an Ursuline College Historic Preservation alumna, the hands-on experience allowed us to immerse ourselves in an important process for cities and towns across the country. We’re grateful for the experience and the ability to learn from local preservation professionals.

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