Maximum Accessible Housing of Ohio (MAHO) initially purchased and renovated a former warehouse building in Cleveland’s University Circle in 1984, turning it into the first apartment community in Northeast Ohio specifically designed to allow people with mobility disabilities to live independently. Over 25 years later, the building and the accessibility features became obsolete.
Starting with $23,000 but great ambition, planning for the project officially kicked off in 2006. Construction began several years later in 2012 when fundraising was complete and financing secured. MAHO financed the project through tax credits, a HUD-inspired mortgage, a capital campaign, contributions from various foundations, and individual donations.
The concept of universal design is to create a facility for everyone's needs. Visitors to Cotman Vistas don't immediately recognize, design-wise, that it was built for those with physical mobility disability. For example, windows in the building were extremely carefully selected and have very low, shallow wells that are very easy to open and close.
Design elements throughout the building are both aesthetically pleasing and specifically designed for physically disabled tenants. The doors are all 36 inches wide with swing-clear hinges to provide extra clearance. There is under-counter lighting, and outlets are all at a level to accommodate both caregivers as well as those who are wheelchair-bound.
The organization is devoted to providing an ultimate living experience for those with physical mobility limitations. Supporting this mission is a resource center within Cotman Vistas that allows MAHO to provide much-needed training and information on accessible housing. People with disabilities and seniors need knowledge, advocates and builders to help ensure that appropriate housing is available. The building is a reflection of MAHO’s vision, which goes beyond anything that previously existed when it comes to this type of caregiving.
The aspiration was to create something that was natural, light, beautiful, unpretentious and a building that was reflective of the flavor of the neighborhood. Cotman Vistas is part of the revitalization of the Uptown district of University Circle, so it was important to become part of the neighborhood, design-wise, with elements like brick, materials, and massing that allows the building to fit in but be distinctive, warm and friendly as well as practical.
This LEED Silver facility represents a state-of-the-art building for tenants with physical mobility disability, serves as a model for accessible design, and maintains and contributes to the diversity of its neighborhood, providing residents with different abilities and economic circumstances the opportunity to live in an exciting, urban neighborhood.