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The Importance of Creating a Shared Vision: A Q&A with Richard Barnhart, Chairman & CEO of Pennrose

Enterprise Blog September 16, 2016

We were fortunate to be able to sit down and talk recently with Richard Barnhart, chairman and CEO of Pennrose, about a variety of topics, including his firm’s transformative work on Saint Luke’s Manor in Cleveland.

Mr. Barnhart, picture below, has led the real estate development firm since 2004, helping to grow Pennrose into one of the country’s largest creators of affordable housing with over 11,000 rental homes in their current portfolio.

Enterprise has partnered with Pennrose on five developments, including the transformation of Saint Luke’s from a neighborhood blight into a thriving, multigenerational living and learning campus.

Saint Luke’s posed a unique set of challenges. You’ve mentioned putting your “heart and soul” into its transformation. Would you elaborate? What stands out for you most about your work on Saint Luke’s?

Each and every development we're involved in leaves a lasting impression with me, but there are two aspects of Saint Luke's that stick out.

The first was the massive size of the undertaking. The building itself is a quarter million square feet. That’s what you see today. When we first visited the property, there was approximately triple the amount of square footage.

The original structure – the beautiful building that's there today – had been added onto over the years, as many hospitals are. One of my initial thoughts was that all of those architecturally uninteresting additions – mostly medical office space – were unusable.

My suggestion was, “Okay, we're willing to take this project on, but we've got to demolish 600,000 square feet.”

At first, people were aghast at the suggestion. But no one had stepped back and considered getting rid of a major portion of unusable space to return Saint Luke’s to its original beautiful structure.

The second attribute that sticks out goes to the historic rehabilitation side. I've been involved in, personally, almost 40 historic rehabilitations. The ability to reuse a building and create a vibrant asset for the community from what was a vacant eyesore is incredibly motivating to me. Anytime you have a school or a hospital or an institutional icon that goes vacant – that goes dark – it takes a piece of the soul of the community away. People feel that they’re in a community that’s moving in the wrong direction. The ability to restore those types of buildings like we did with Saint Luke’s and convert them back into valuable and contributing resources is exciting to me, and empowering to the neighborhood.

 

To read the full Blog post on the Enterprise website, click here.