by Geoff Larcom, Published April 22, 2013
ANN ARBOR – The warm months always offer needed relief from Michigan winters, but this coming summer holds special appeal for residents at the Green-Baxter Court housing development on Ann Arbor's northeast side.
That's because a group of construction management students at Eastern Michigan University has built a large gazebo and shelter, an additional flourish to the already well-maintained complex.
The structure, located at 1737 Green Road, was dedicated during a ribbon cutting April 17.
The Eastern Michigan students worked through rain and snow and all sorts of odd weather to finish the project before the end of the winter term in April, said Jennifer Hall, director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission.
During a brief press conference, Hall expressed her appreciation and praised the commission's partnership with EMU.
"We couldn't have afforded this in our budget," she said of the volunteer project. The commission paid just over $5,000 for materials and building permits.
Green-Baxter Court is a 29-unit public housing site, one of 18 public housing sites owned and managed by the City of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Housing Commission.
Tenants must be low-income, and they must pay 30 percent of their income on rent. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development pays an operating subsidy to the AAHC to maintain the units.
The housing commission oversees 18 different sites in the Ann Arbor area. All the Green-Baxter tenants are low-income, with a variety of senior and disabled residents living there as well.
Green-Baxter residents said they are eager to use the shelter.
"I'm excited; it looks so nice," said Adriana Ochoa. "I can't wait to sit out there and feel the breeze on a hot day."
Kim Pitts, an EMU student living in the complex, said, "I watched the (students) working there every morning. I definitely appreciate it. We take pride in making our commons area look good. This is an added bonus."
Joan Doughty, executive director of the Community Action Network, which provides assistance to low-income families through four of Ann Arbor's community centers - Hikone, Bryant, Northside, and Green-Baxter Court - said the EMU effort came as a delightful surprise.
"This is fabulous," she said. "You guys just come in and do the work. This will provide years and years of enjoyment for this community."
The EMU construction management program has about 150 students, and offers training for careers in project management.
Professor James Stein, who oversaw the project and supervised the students, described the project as a "win-win-win-win" for the Baxter Green residents, the EMU students, the housing commission and staff.
Stein noted that the EMU program focuses on developing project management ability and less on pure building skills such as carpentry.
The students building the structure included James Britton, president of the Eastern Constructors student group and an Iraq war vet; Matt Isotalo, a first-semester student and electrician in training; Chris Nickola, a grad assistant; John Pitts, a new student who's from Mayfield, Ohio; Bill Carras, an Ann Arbor Pioneer High graduate; Andrew Wolterman, an EMU senior who builds handicap ramps for a living and Jim Schlenkert, a non-traditional student who's worked a variety of jobs in the skilled trades and acted as a mentor to the group.
"As a group, they're really special," Stein said of his class. "We love to get them out of their seats and out in the field and not always having to listen to me lecture in class."