The nationally recognized design and architecture firm Andrew Franz Architect has announced the debut of a much-anticipated redesign of Washington Houses Community Center in New York City, a commission for the repeat client and successful community organization, Union Settlement.
A transformative design supporting new approaches to the organization’s services and programming, the center benefits the community in varied ways. An easy-to-find entry and new glazed entrances and windows encourage more access and participation, according to the designers, and the naturally illuminated interior, providing open views throughout, creates a new and positive environment with plenty of opportunities for interaction among Union Settlement's different constituencies.
The Washington Houses Community Center opens its doors officially with a September 15th ribbon-cutting ceremony. Completely renovated, the state-of the-art, 11,000-square-foot youth and senior facility serving the East Harlem neighborhood offers a visually impactful and friendly environment epitomizing the engaging learning environment — and the creativity and warmth — essential to its service mission. Open, colorful and enriching, it also reflects the commitment of Union Settlement and the support of its funder, the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The enhanced community center supports Union Settlement’s wide range of youth services programs and a robust senior center, according to acclaimed architecture and design firm, Andrew Franz Architect. The facility has been reimagined from the original, built more than 60 years ago, with modernized classrooms, offices, and public spaces and completely new infrastructure. Built-in glass sections along efficient circulation routes, a new skylight, and enlarged windows in the senior center, draw in natural daylight and improve center communications, navigation, and safety while encouraging interaction. The colorful, joyful environment also features installations by local artists.
“We are extremely proud of this collaboration with Union Settlement and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and grateful for their support of our vision of a new center and community touchstone that not only fulfills their rich program offerings but also creates a welcoming, bright and open experience for the East Harlem community,” says architect Andrew Franz, AIA, founder of Andrew Franz Architect. “It’s our hope that with this extensive renovation, and the wonderful works by East Harlem artists, the center will be a source of pride and inspiration for the youth and seniors it serves, long into the future.”
The newly reopened center is the main location of Youth Services for Union Settlement, offering after-school and summer activities, college preparation, job training and support for disconnected youth. It is also the seat of the East Harlem Youth Opportunity Hub, with the mission of preventing youth involvement in the criminal justice system by providing a “one-stop” neighborhood facility for workforce and educational opportunities and through social and emotional development, enrichment, arts and recreation.
“This collaborative effort reflects input and efforts of more than 20 community partners working together to deliver comprehensive support for at-risk children, teens, and young adults,” according to Union Settlement, which was founded in 1895 and has emerged as one of the nation’s oldest community organizations. Today, Union Settlement provides more than 10,000 East Harlem residents with a comprehensive array of education, wellness, and community-building programs annually.
“Union Settlement is thrilled to see the Washington Houses Community Center transformed into such an amazing space, and we are delighted to now welcome children, youth, adults and seniors back into this wonderful new space,” says David Nocenti, Executive Director of Union Settlement. “We are grateful to Andrew Franz Architect for its innovative design that will provide an open and airy space for the East Harlem community to enjoy for years to come.”
With the new design by Andrew Franz Architect, the one-story Washington Houses Community Center supports the advancement of Union Settlement’s legacy of community service and support in exceptional style. Along with Andrew Franz Architect, the project team included the contractor SPK | Lewis, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing firm Plus Group Consulting Engineers, the cost estimator Ellana Inc., code consultant JMV Associates, and Design One Lighting Design.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place on Wednesday, September 15th, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 1775 3rd Avenue. The event will be attended by local officials and dignitaries, including Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr, Senator José M. Serrano, and other elected officials, local housing development leaders, and community stakeholders. Optional tours of the renovated community center will be available.
Scouting photography by Albert Vecerka/Esto from punch list phase