It has been an exciting month for Botwin Commercial Development! After months of work on the 7509 Penn duplex, we completed the project and celebrated with a grand opening event on July 27. However, we celebrated more than just a duplex, we celebrated the collaboration it took to build it.
When we first started brainstorming ideas for the property, we knew we wanted the project to aid in learning, to feature high-quality design and materials and to be affordable. As a result, we knew the best way to achieve our goals was to collaborate.
We teamed up with el dorado inc., an architectural firm that was looking for a project partner for its work with Kansas State University’s Design+Make Studio which provides hands-on learning experience for its architecture students. The student’s involvement on the project not only provided experience for them but helped keep costs lower, contributing to the affordability goal. General contractor Studio Build was integral to the collaboration as well, ensuring construction was well executed while educating students along the way.
After seeing the Design+Make Studio students’ professional growth during the collaboration, we decided we wanted the duplex to continue contributing to learning. We partnered with Hale Cook Elementary School in Waldo and asked those who attended our grand opening to support the school’s “Cook Cash” program. Students earn "Cook Cash" for being safe, respectful and responsible and can then use it to purchase items from a store in the school.
As part of the grand opening celebration, we invited those who helped us make the duplex a reality to each break a glass. This is a tradition that is normally part of a Jewish wedding, but we think it has special relevance to this project. Breaking the glass at a wedding is meant to remind everyone of tragedy. It provides a symbol, a sound, that pauses the celebration. In this case, it reminds us that although we are proud to provide this affordable housing, we still have more work to do. We live in a time when having a roof over your head is considered a privilege and not a right. We live in a time when affordable housing is perceived to be synonymous with thoughtless design, lackadaisical construction, and impoverished communities. We think that housing is a right, and that when addressing social and economic challenges, development must be thoughtfully designed and expertly constructed.
We are excited to be able to share this project with our collaborators, our neighbors, the greater Waldo community and with the residents who will soon call the 7509 Penn duplex their home!