Citizen Architect Profile: Jeff Raser

Jeff Raser, President, Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation

Firm: CUDA Studio

What is the purpose of the organization where you are involved?

To promote the heritage and equitable redevelopment of Cincinnati’s Brewery District. 

Why did you choose to get involved?

I wanted to be deeply involved in the renaissance of the wonderfully complex neighborhood known as the Brewery District (which is roughly the northern half of Over-the-Rhine centered by Findlay Market). 

How does your experience as an architect contribute to the organization?

My work as an architect who is focused on urban design and community revitalization provides me with valuable insight into creating and maintaining vibrant urban places. The Brewery District has the largest collection of 19th and early 20th century brewery-related structures in the country – all embedded in the intimate fabric of the Italianate Over-the-Rhine. The redevelopment of large industrial buildings strewn within a neighborhood of smaller mixed-use buildings, connected by urban street corridors and public gathering spaces, is well-served by the broad, creative thinking engendered by my architectural background. 

How has serving in this role benefited you as an architect?

I’ve had to learn the intricacies of event-based programs and business models (something many of my clients have to deal with regularly). As with many non-profit organizations, I’ve had to help figure out how to originate ideas, turn them into actionable objectives and strategies, and achieve results with little or no money. Then there’s the beer – I’ve had to learn about that (though the hands-on study and research has been rewarding). 

How much time and effort does your role require?

I’ve been on the Board of Directors of the Brewery District since 2005 but I’ve only been president since January of 2020. Our board meets monthly as do our standing committees. As president of the organization during the COVID-19 outbreak I’ve had to put in quite a bit of time – from 8 to 20 hours per month. 

Would you encourage other architects to get involved in a similar organization?

Absolutely. Civic organizations, such as community councils and Community Development Corporations, need the “big-picture” thoughtfulness and innovative thinking that architects bring forth. Also, the experience of serving on such a board provides architects with priceless real-world experience (and networking opportunities). We need them and they need us. 

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