The Nehemiah Studio, a UW class on mitigating gentrification in Seattle’s Central District designed by Rachel Berney, Donald King and Al Levine with support from College of Built Environments Dean Renée Cheng, has been honored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The course supports joint efforts by the college and the Nehemiah Initiative Seattle to train graduate students to help mitigate displacement in Seattle’s Central District.
The college’s “Nehemiah Interdisciplinary Studio: Building Beloved Community” course is one of four recipients of the 2021 Curriculum Innovation Awards given by the Lincoln Institute in partnership with the nationwide Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. The institute is a nonprofit private foundation working to improve land stewardship. Berney is an associate professor in the Department of Urban Design & Planning, and faculty director of Urban @ UW. King and Levine are affiliate professors.
The awards, which each come with $7,000, recognize curriculum proposals on land use that are accessible, innovative, interdisciplinary and effective, and which connect theory and research to practice.
In the Nehemiah curriculum, graduate student design teams will draw up proposals to lessen or reverse the impact of gentrification and displacement in Seattle’s historic Central District through the development of real estate assets of historically Black churches. Each year the studio focuses on up to three sites.
The larger project goal, according to the course description, is to provide affordable mixed-use projects that meet community needs and help retain, bring back and attract new residents. “This project has the capacity to show long-term residents a successful path to maintaining their community in the face of urban transformation.”
The studio and initiative borrow their name from the central figure in the Book of Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period in Jewish history.
Also receiving 2021 Curriculum Innovation Awards were projects at the University of California, Irvine; Columbia University; and Future Generations University.