Chatfield College's new OTR home maintains community ties, provides room to grow


The paint might still be drying and floors still being laid, but Chatfield College’s new Over-the-Rhine facility on Central Parkway is already bustling with students and staff for the fall semester.
 
Chatfield is a unique institution in Cincinnati: a private, not-for-profit, faith-based Associate’s Degree program that emphasizes the liberal arts. The college, founded in the Ursuline tradition of Sister Julia Chatfield, has campuses in both Cincinnati and St. Martin, Ohio, to focus on critical thinking and preparing students to continue at four-year bachelor’s degree programs while remaining accessible to students who face significant barriers to education.
 
“We’re all about taking down barriers,” says Chatfield President John Tafaro, explaining the school’s student-focused programs from financial aid to daycare.
 
Tafaro explains that the new Over-the-Rhine building is within walking distance of 15 bus stops, saying it will make the college’s services available to even more students while providing an upgraded space for classes and resources.
 
“This is a first-class learning environment,” Tafaro says, “because our students deserve the best.”
 
The new environment is the result of a 14-month, $3.4-million renovation of a building on Central Parkway near Liberty Street. The building was formerly used by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind (now Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) as a broom factory employing its clients.
 
The socially conscious renovation made use of historic tax credits by maintaining the historic character of the early-20th Century building and created an energy-efficient green facility.
 
“We met our goal of using 30 percent minority-owned and women-owned businesses and 70 percent union labor for our subcontractors,” Tafaro says.
 
The space includes versatile classrooms for small classes and larger events, science labs, work space, a computer lab, a non-denominational chapel to be completed in early 2016 and a large music and dance studio space with wide windows overlooking Central Parkway and the Cincinnati Ballet headquarters right across the street.
 
Tafaro is especially excited about the natural light and open feel after moving from the space Chatfield rented nearby since 2006. That space had been just one third the size of the new Central Parkway building, with no outward-facing windows. The new space provides the college much more opportunity to grow — the campus currently serves just over 200 students, but Tafaro can imagine a day when it might host many more.
 
He says that Chatfield is deeply committed to the Over-the-Rhine community and excited to take advantage of the resources near their new location and build on collaborations with its neighbors. Several tours of the new campus are coming up, including one on Thursday, Sept. 17 in collaboration with the OTR Chamber of Commerce and Taft’s Ale House.