Gossens Bachman Architects wins national social responsibility award

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Gossens Bachman Architects wins national social responsibility award

Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:55am -- tim

Gossens Bachman Architects in conjunction with Housing Vermont and the Rockingham Community Area Land Trust were recently recognized by the John M. Clancy Award for Socially Responsible Housing for the transformation of the historical NAMCO Block in Windsor, Vermont.    
The John M Clancy Award for Socially Responsible Housing was established in 2004. The intent of the John Clancy Award for Socially Responsible Housing is to recognize and encourage excellence in the planning,  design, construction and maintenance of socially responsible urban housing by honoring an organization, a group, or an individual who has been a major force behind one or more built housing developments characterized by excellence in planning, design and construction. 
The jury received submissions from across the country and said this about its selection process "In the end, we honored six projects, judging each to be an outstanding example of socially responsible housing. In every instance, the work was excellently handled from plan to completion. We recognized work that represents a mix of scales and is the result of fine contemporary thinking that elevates design beyond a basic reaction to a site’s past problems. These projects are evidence that affordable housing can be done well and can represent the urban form while bringing lovely, well-lit spaces to people who need it most."   
The NAMCO Block involved the rehabilitation of an 85,000 sq ft multi-family housing project on the National Register of Historic Places in downtown Windsor, VT.  Public perception plummeted over time and with poor building management and increased crime, the building became nearly uninhabitable to its residence and surrounding community.  In 2005, town officials compiled comprehensive records on the apartment complex; the Block’s level of violent and drug-related crime was double, and in some cases triple, those of the rest of the town. The 72 apartments, which held 10% of Windsor’s population, accounted for 36% of the town’s police calls for domestic violence, 35% of calls for drug activity, 32% of noise disturbances, 23% of child welfare calls, and 20% of reported assaults. 
In 2007 new owners wanted to renovate and revitalize the NAMCO Block and adjacent neighborhood. They envisioned a safe, healthy, mixed income ‘community within a community’.  The renovations included larger, completely reconfigured apartments that reduced the overall building density, additional community space, creation of two small pocket parks, the addition of a children's play area, secure entrances, complete restoration of the rich exterior details and a new elevator and walkway system that makes all spaces accessible. This was all accomplished with the highest level of energy conservation and efficiency.  Last year the oil consumption went from 58,000 gallons to 19,000 gallons. 
The jury comments about the project.  "The entire neighborhood is revitalized by the renovation of this four-story brick apartment block, originally comprising nine identical buildings that contained 72 apartments. De-densification was thoughtful here, incorporating a plan that reduced the number of units to 58 and provided each with a south-facing kitchen to maximize light. The rental structure was changed from low income to mixed income and represents a small town’s theological choice to fix up a very large historical site and make it appealing to a wide range and percentage of its population.  The space feels very accessible, not just mechanically, but socially, incorporating very sensitive distribution of light and views. It’s rare to find a full block of buildings without some pronounced misstep, but this work is calm and handsome. The client, who could have done so much less, should be applauded." 
Photos Credit: Gary Hall Photography
Gossens Bachman Architects  2.7.2012