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Over-the-Rhine Pizzeria Provides Students a Slice of Real Life Experience

Local nuns almost evicted from their non-profit pizzeria are getting some “piece"-of-mind from young University of Cincinnati designers who are cooking up ideas to help the sisters continue their service in Over-the-Rhine.

Date: 3/4/2004 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Drawings by Lauren Farquhar and Claire Collier

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The Dominican Sisters of Hope and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur don’t have a lot of dough.  That’s one of the reasons that their non-profit Venice Pizza, founded as a means to provide jobs and training for hard-to-employ residents in our urban neighborhoods, needs to quickly move from its present location on the edge of Camp Washington to Over-the-Rhine.  Their rent is rising, forcing them to relocate.

But now, the sisters have picked out a storefront location at 1301 Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine as the new home for Venice Pizza, part of their Power Inspires Progress program.  They’ve also turned to University of Cincinnati interior design students to help them refashion the space into a pizzeria, catering business and training center.  The students, led by Carrie Beidleman, adjunct professor of design, will present their final design ideas to the Dominican Sisters of Hope and their non-profit’s Board of Directors at 10 a.m., Monday, March 15, in the 5000-level foyer of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.  The students will later present their concepts to the entire Over-the-Rhine community from 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, March 17, in UC’s Niehoff Studio located in The Emery Center, 110 E. Central Parkway at Walnut Street in Over-the-Rhine.  One student concept will be selected to provide the ingredients the Dominicans need to retrofit their new space.

In all, eight students from UC’s interior design program – recently rated as the nation’s best undergraduate interior design program – are cutting their teeth on this real-world project.  For these third-year students, who have worked in their classroom studios and for design firms across the country as part of their cooperative-education requirements, this is their first time in seeing a design project completely through from beginning to end.  (Co-op refers to the practice of alternating academic quarters with quarters of paid, professional work.  It had its worldwide founding at UC in 1906, and UC’s co-op program is ranked 4th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.)

“When I worked in Atlanta on my last co-op, I was given responsibility for portions of corporate projects, but I was never given the full responsibility of a project from beginning to end,” explained student Lauren Farquhar, 20, of Wichita, Kansas, who, once this project is complete, will spend her summer working in London as her next UC co-op requirement. 

She added, “The sisters couldn’t afford the professional services we can provide, and they were so excited when they came and saw our ideas at mid-term.  And I’m excited too, because this is a meaningful project.  I’m really looking forward to going into the space when it’s done and knowing I had a hand in it.”

Farquhar’s interior designs for the storefront pizzeria “embrace the low-budget challenge,” as she put it, inherent in the project.  For instance, she’s suggesting that the sisters paint large, diagonal squares of bright, primary colors on their concrete floor, matched by similarly colored booths they could build themselves. 

Fellow student Claire Collier, 23, of Brookville, Ind., is using the non-profit’s name of Venice Pizza as her inspiration and incorporating the colors and shapes common to Venetian glass into her design.  Her color palette of rich blues, greens and browns is accented by hand-blown Venetian glass fixtures to provide the pizzeria’s lighting.  Collier, like many other students, is suggesting more seating and a more professional setting for customer-worker interactions.  In Venice Pizza’s current space, there is only room enough for three dining tables and a card-table register.

Sister Monica McGloin said that the group already has someone who will oversee the renovation of the space at 1301 Vine St., and a UC student will do the necessary construction drawings and bid packages in the spring, thanks to funding from UC’s Institute for Community Partnerships, supervisions by UC’s Community Design Center and technical assistance from KZF Design Inc.  All that remains to be done is the necessary fundraising.  “If all goes well and we begin renovating the Over-the-Rhine space at the end of May, we hope to be operating in our new space by September,” added McGloin.

When that happens, Venice Pizza will continue its ministry of employing and training hard-to-place workers, paying up to $7 an hour.  The venture has employed up to 12 part-time workers at any one time.


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