The Robins Project welcomes The New School and Kent State University students to begin design collaboration

For immediate release Feb. 18, 2015

WARREN — This weekend will kick-off the second year of a partnership between The Robins Project and The New School in New York City.  Students will be visiting the city and speaking with residents to better understand how the restoration of Robins Theater space may serve as a catalyst to revitalize Warren.

The Robins Project is a grassroots effort to restore the former Robins Theater space, which has been long-identified as a catalyst for local growth.  Last year students from The New School Urban Collaborative (Milano Finance Lab + Parsons School of Design Strategies) proposed ideas for what they deem an Integral City.  Their plans included financing options and proposals for how the now vacant Robins building could be used, as well as design interventions to create a more vibrant downtown.  Last summer, one of the recommended strategies, Commons Fest, was debuted on August 16th at Courthouse Square.  The festival was intended as a reclamation of “the commons”, in which citizens participated in hands-on learning activities sponsored by area nonprofits, to introduce them to changemakers within the community, thus presenting an opportunity for future involvement.

This year’s partnership has expanded to include Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.  The visiting students will connect with architecture majors from Kent State University, who will be generating ideas for vacant lots in the Garden District.

Both groups of students will imagine a number of interventions and design strategies for downtown Warren through community engagement and participatory research methods.  Similar to last year, The Robins Project hopes to implement some of the recommended strategies this summer. The collaboration between the New School Urban Collaborative and Warren will map a long-term strategy and capacity for community development, while advancing a new understanding of integrated design and community finance that supports further work in the community development field.

Residents of the central city and others interested in the project are encouraged to attend an interactive discussion and design charrette with The New School and Kent State students from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 21  at the YWCA Warren, 375 North Park Ave, in which Garden District strategies will be discussed.

The Robins Project is a grassroots effort to restore the former Robins Theater space.  If you are interested in becoming involved in the partnership between The Robins Project and The New School, please consider joining our Special Projects Committee.  The organizers of the project are currently seeking working group members to join the following committees:  Renovation, Marketing and Public Relations, Volunteers Outreach and Management, Fundraising and Development, Special Projects, and Research.

New York students look to revamp Robins Theater

Originally posted on on February 24, 2014
By WKBN Staff

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Big city thinking is helping with a renovation project in Warren.

Students from a New York City school spent the weekend getting to know the in and outs of the dilapidated Robins Theater.

Beyond the paint chips and dusty seats, the beauty of the Robins Theater still resides. For the project’s co-organizer, Melissa Holmes, restoring the Robins is just part of the plan to revitalize downtown.

“You don’t understand the magnitude until you come in here and it’s just breathtaking,” said Holmes.

A Warren native, Holmes has heard the stories of the Robins. She’s always wondered about the 1,200-seat theater that closed in 1974. As it turned out, her boyfriend’s uncle owns the building.  Now she’s spearheading an effort to renovate the Robins.

“The long term goal in this project is to identify the community’s wants and needs. This project has never before been looked at in such a way,” said Holmes.

To get started, she got in touch with her professors at The New School of Design in New York. Sixteen students spent the weekend in Warren walking though the aisles and stairs of the theater so they can  come up with ideas on how to  bring new life to the building.

“One of them would be to use this for workshops like theater, dancing recording, really bringing youth in here is going to be amazing,” said New School of Design student, Anna Pena.

“You can see the glory of how it used to be. Walking down the velvet row of seats,” added fellow student David Braha.

Student teams will focus on things like design, re-use and financing the project.

“What they’re trying to do is really create a cultural vibrancy in this area so that more people, more businesses will want to locate here,” said New School of Design instructor, Kevin McQueen.

They’ll be back in Warren in a few months to present their research.

“It lends itself naturally to an arts and culture center but we have some serious needs in our community, especially with youth engagement and so we’re really looking at this and hoping the community will share with us what they want this space to be,” said Holmes.

For Holmes, the project is personal. She’s traveled the world, but her heart is in her hometown.

“Warren has so much opportunity and that is the most important aspect of this whole story. You can make anything happen. We can make Warren what we want it to be,” Holmes said.

original article:

Alum Melissa Holmes Collaborates with Milano and Parsons Student Team

old seats

Inside The Robins Theater, Warren, Ohio. Photo by Sarah Bokone of Boko Photo

original article on

Melissa Holmes, an alumna of Milano’s Urban Policy Analysis and Management program, is spearheading a revitalization project to repurpose the historic Robins Theater in her hometown of Warren, Ohio. In her student days, Melissa participated in Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab (CDFL). Melissa thought her current endeavor would make a great CDFL project and contacted faculty member Kevin McQueen.

This February, a team of 13 students and three faculty members from The New School Urban Collaborative, a partnership between Milano’s Community Development Finance Lab and Parsons School of Design Strategies, travel to Warren to begin a community engagement process. The team is partnering with local artists and students to engage community members in a plan for adapting the Robins Theater for reuse. Melissa is excited about the collaboration, “I think the intersection of students with locals is really going to create something amazing.”

Read more about the project in this article from the local paper, Residents work to restore Robins theater, downtown. Please note the Tribune Chronicle got an important detail wrong. Melissa is a proud alumna of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.

VIDEO: New York Students look to Revamp Robins Theater