CT Architects, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Community Planning, Interiors, Design, Innovation

We’re Honored — And We’re Inspired

We’re honored, humbled, grateful, and maybe most importantly inspired!

Over the past two months Crosskey Architects has been presented with five awards by CREW CT – The Real Estate Exchange, the Connecticut Main Street Center, and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation for our work on multiple projects throughout Connecticut. Most notably, we were recognized for our adaptive reuse of Capewell Lofts by all three. To each of these incredible organizations, thank you! Here is a quick look at each of the projects we were commended for:


Capewell Lofts, Hartford, CT
Connecticut Real Estate Exchange (CREW CT), Best in Class, Multifamily Housing
Connecticut Main Street Center, Keystone Award
Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut Preservation Award

For decades, it appeared to passersby that the abandoned Capewell Horse Nail Factory would eventually collapse and never see a new day; however, hope was restored. The transformation of an architectural ruin to Capewell Lofts was the vision of the Corporation for Independent Living (CIL). For Hartford, this project is a beacon of imagination, hope, and renewal. CIL acquired this project in 2014 with the goal of converting the two mill buildings into residential and commercial buildings. Although broken, damaged, and dirty, there were no issues the structure presented that were insurmountable. Conversion of the building into 72 apartment units included the infill of concrete floors consistent with the original flooring, new windows to match the historic proportions, and the installation of modern, industrial finishes, including stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and mill-type lighting. The loft-style units boast average ceiling heights of 20 feet.


Harral, Security, and Wheeler Buildings, Bridgeport, CT
Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut Preservation Award

CT Architects, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Community Planning, Interiors, Design, Innovation

In 2012, Kim Morque, President of Spinnaker Real Estate, embarked on a journey of a lifetime. The goal: Rehabilitate three vacant historic buildings in Bridgeport’s Downtown North neighborhood. The E.W. Harral, Security, and E.E. Wheeler Buildings (HSW) have been redeveloped with commercial space on the lower level and multi-family housing units on the floors above. Combined, the three properties offer 70 residential units (18 affordable and two live-work) and five retail spaces.


777 Main Street, Hartford, CT
Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut Preservation Award

CT Architects, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Community Planning, Interiors, Design, Innovation

Located on Main Street in downtown Hartford, this ca. 1965 former office building has been redeveloped as a mixed use property. The first floor has commercial space, and the upper 26 floors are multifamily housing: a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The scope of work included a complete renovation of the multifamily floors, cleaning of the concrete exterior, and new roofs, with a green roof on the low building. Crosskey Architects was the associate architect for the contract documents and construction administration. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thank you CREW CT – The Real Estate Exchange, the Connecticut Main Street Center, and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation for honoring our work and inspiring us to continue to strive even higher.

Crosskey Does Donation Creation

When you wake up in the morning, what drives you? What makes you sit up, stretch, and embrace the day? At Crosskey Architects, why we wake up energized and eager to get to work is quite clear – to inspire others, transform communities, and have some fun doing it.
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Remember That Time at the Brickyard?

Speckles of dust and the smell of stale beer fill the air as our team walks through the now vacant Club Pyur and former Brickyard of Allyn Street in downtown Hartford. Most people would feel a great sense of discomfort walking into an old, dilapidated building with cobwebs, spalling brick, and leaky roofs, but it puts a wide grin on my face. This bar and the empty floors above it come together as the historic Capitol City Carriage and Harness Repository, and will soon be transformed into a mixed-use development made up of sixty new apartments. However, this transformation will require many hours of investigative work before that becomes a reality. In a sense, we must simultaneously play the roles of detectives and designers.

CT Architects, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Community Planning, Interiors, Design, Innovation

As preservation architects, we must routinely enter and perform investigative work in these types of structures in an effort to better understand their history and potential for restoration and/or adaptive reuse. We rely on tape measures and cameras to attain measurements and photos, but we must also rely on intuition and experience to attain information that is not always so evident. Where are the load-bearing walls? Are the current windows original or replacements? These are only a few of the questions we must consider when deciphering fragmented puzzle pieces of history. When we analyze these structures in order to determine what repairs and modifications might be needed, we must also analyze for potential. Can this area requiring floor framing replacement be used for a new stairwell or an elevator hoistway? Could the historic building main entry be re-opened and utilized as a lobby? Using a building’s detriment as an advantage can often be a useful tool.

I’ve had the opportunity to explore scores of old buildings over my eleven-year employment with Crosskey Architects, and each one has left a lasting impression. Whether it’s elaborate window casings, an iconic bell tower, or gargantuan coal bunkers, every building has its own unique character and a story to tell. For example, many old factories and mills employed a two-toned paint scheme carried throughout work areas. The bottom few feet were often painted a dark color in an effort to conceal blemishes from workers and equipment alike, while the upper portions were often painted lighter to help reflect and maximize natural light. Utilizing a similar paint scheme in a renovated space helps speak to the history of the space.

CT Architects, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Community Planning, Interiors, Design, Innovation

As I conclude my walkthrough on Allyn Street, I stumble upon a piece of history. I enter into what I perceive to be a large, narrow room with a giant skylight and massive steel beams above. Only after I see the steel cables and pulleys do I realize that I am not in a room at all, but am standing in one of the building’s original carriage lifts: still intact after nearly 140 years. I instantly feel a sense of awe as I imagine the many horse-drawn carriages this lift carried back in its heyday. It now rests on the second floor, filled with shelving and clutter. I smile as I ponder how this amazing space, this amazing piece of history might be preserved and transformed so that others can enjoy its splendor. How might this be accomplished? Only time will tell.

 

 

By: Michael Weissbrod, AIA
Principal

The Environment and Economics

St. Francis of Assisi, a medieval Roman Catholic friar, preacher and ecologist, believed in a harmonious relationship between our planet and all the creatures living in it because it was our duty to do so, not because it stimulated economic growth. Fast forward about eight hundred years and we find that his teachings may be exactly what the world needs now in order to preserve our life on Earth as we know it. We need to stop asking how we can make the planet work for us, and instead ask how we can respect our planet for the planet’s sake. However, until we all catch up to St. Francis way of thinking, perhaps stimulating economic growth with sustainable incentives can be a starting point to understanding the effects of our environmental abuse and our mismanagement of natural resources.

Although this incentive approach may initially appear to be only self-serving and not done out of love for our Mother Earth, it provides the opportunity for educating a community to the fact that we are acting in our own best human interest; that the shared interest is self-preservation. The responsibility of educating a community falls on the community’s governing municipalities and environmental professionals. We all need to understand that we are not saving the environment, it does not need to be saved as it will adapt. We’re saving ourselves, who cannot keep pace with the adapting environment.

22nd Gallivan Conference, photo by Sara C. Bronin

I had the pleasure of attending the 22nd Gallivan Conference – Municipal Climate Policy on March 3, 2017, in no small part thanks to Sara Bronin for taking such an interest in pulling this conference together. This day-long conference is an example of the type of education and networking that needs to occur in order to bring awareness to the fact that natural disasters are not always natural, and that it will take all of us working together to attempt to reverse the effects of the otherwise unavoidable climate tsunami heading our way. We can no longer claim environmentalists are overreacting to the human causes to climate change. The evidence is too overwhelming and municipalities need to work together to come to a solution.

A good place to start would be by making sure a community understands the major contributors to climate change and effects to the environment. Once this is understood, municipalities have the obligation to discuss solutions and not only involving but encouraging the entire community to participate in the problem solving and the creation of initiatives to address environmental concerns. It is encouraging to hear of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s commitment to Climate Change by the newly created Sustainability Office, and even more encouraging hearing of the community’s generous grants to make that happen. We should look forward to hearing more from this office on environmentalism and its relationship to economics.

An example of how economic incentives are bringing new life to neighborhoods in Connecticut is in the historic preservation of existing buildings and conversion to multifamily housing. Through state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, in conjunction with community developers, abandoned industrial neighborhoods are being transformed into healthy livable communities. We all benefit from the preservation of a community’s historic identity and the conservation of the natural resources that would be required to build new neighborhoods; embodied energy. Though these incentives did not come about under one united agenda, or initiated at the same time, each sparked another idea which caused a ripple effect. For example, the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program was introduced in 1976 to balance the initiatives that were available for new construction during the middle of 20th century. In 2007, Connecticut launched their own historic rehabilitation tax credit program for buildings listed on the State Register of Historic Places, only. For a decade, many of these credits have been combined to rehabilitate historic, underutilized and vacant buildings throughout Connecticut. Abandoned and neglected buildings are being rewoven into the fabric of our existing infrastructure with a new purpose.

http://www.liveatcapitallofts.com/

Completed historic preservation project, Capitol Lofts

Another example of the bond between the environment and economics is closer to home for me. For the past 11 years, I have been taking the CT Transit Commuter Express Bus to work. I am grateful to my organization, Crosskey Architects, for providing me with the CT Transit Bus tickets that I use to take the commuter bus to and from work. In turn, my organization receives a partial tax break for the purchase of the public transportation bus tickets. Considering that the average annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of a typical passenger vehicle is about 4.7 metric tons, we can make a reasonable assumption that this economic relationship is beneficial to both myself and our planet, which in turn provides me with the cleaner air I am now breathing.

It is said that the reason why we do things determines the attention we dedicate to it. But it may also be true that the reason why we do things can be altered through the process of doing. Perhaps by addressing the environment in relationship to the economic growth in the sustainable sector will benefit both, the receiving humans and the giving planet and by doing so, bring us closer to a sustainable relationship with this great planet Earth we call home.

 

 

By: Silvana Righenzi, LEED AP, BD+C 
Project Manager

The Preservation Story of an Icon: the Talcott Mill Belfry

The Talcott Brothers’ Mill is undergoing a certified rehabilitation, which means that the project is utilizing State and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits as one of its funding sources. Rehabilitation is defined by the National Park Service as “the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.” Therefore, all work must comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The ten Standards were designed to protect a property’s significance through the preservation of distinctive material features.

As discussed in our blog post on January 16, 2017, the bell tower is a local icon. According to Laura Knott-Twine, project manager and historic administrator for the building’s owner, the ringing of the bell was the way workers were called to work at the woolen mill. Rarely, if ever, would mill workers own a clock, and if they did, it was not an alarm clock. The bell also rang at noon for lunch break (much like fire stations still blow their horn at noon) and also at 1pm to call them back to work. At the end of the shift, the bell would signal ‘quitting time.’ Laura also explains that c. 1880, mills introduced the steam whistle, often found in belfries, which could be heard at greater distances. In Willimantic, for example, the steam whistle was blown at 7am, noon, and 6pm until the mill closed in 1985.

Through Laura’s research we are able to understand the important social history associated with the bell tower and, visually, we can see that it is the most prominent architectural feature. In our experience, contractors often suggest replacing deteriorated wood components with modern materials like aluminum and azek to avoid cyclical maintenance; however, this is not an appropriate treatment and does not meet the Standards. Standard 6 discusses the importance of repairing rather than replacing, and replacing in-kind (matching the material, design, color, and texture) where necessary due to deterioration.

One of our roles as architects and historic preservation specialists is to educate builders and the public on historic preservation philosophy, like recognizing the importance of quality craftsmanship over low maintenance, mass-produced products. Starting the conversation about preservation methods provides context to the contractors so they understand the value of restoration and replacing in-kind rather than with substitute materials. While we recognize the value of these materials in the construction industry, historic rehabilitation projects are most often not the right situation to propose replacement materials.

Cutter Enterprises, LLC of Vernon Connecticut, the contractor, is responsible for the restoration of the belfry. Owner and President, Bob Dwyer, took a personal interest in the project and led the team, which included John Marquis, Supervisor, and Dan Fabris, Master Carpenter, with passion and pride. Custom wood carving knives were fabricated and used to replicate all components of the belfry requiring replacement. Everyone involved had great attention to detail and performed the work with care. Cutter was so excited about this project that they took the initiative to have a plaque made that lists the original construction date, the restoration date, contractor, restoration crew and structural engineer. What a very thoughtful idea!

On Monday, March 20, 2017, calm day with clear blue skies and sunshine, the belfry was lifted, guided into place, and secured to a new steel structure on the top floor of the tower. Please refer to the bell tower diagram for a graphic representation of the work discussed. The tower roof will soon be finished, and the spire installed. Stay tuned for pictures of the complete bell tower restoration, as well as the entire building rehabilitation.

 

 

By: Nina Caruso, MSHP, James Fiore, and Laura Knott-Twine, MA

ACE: Connecting America’s Future Architects with Mentors Nationwide

Rewind your clock to your teenage years…remember the days where you sat in biology, pre-calculus, or history pondering what you would do for the rest of your adult life? The reality is that much of America’s youth is in those very same shoes. Fortunately, there are extracurricular programs, clubs, and organizations that help us discover our interests and grow these seeds into life long careers.

I personally benefited from such a program. In high school, I was introduced to the ACE Mentorship program. ACE connects high school students with professionals in the fields of architecture, construction and engineering. Having been through the program myself prior to college, I have since decided to become a local mentor in the Hartford, CT chapter.

 

 

Twice a month, myself and 4-5 other professionals spread across the fields of architecture, construction and engineering meet with students at Enfield High School. We carry out lessons that overview a variety of subjects pertaining to structural engineering, design, scheduling, etc. Once we offer an overview of the professions and some of the associated tasks, the students group themselves into whatever area they are most interested in.

Students are then provided a hypothetical design situation where they must design (in terms of architecture and engineering) a solution to the issue at hand. The architecture group will design elevations, plans and sections; the engineers will work on structure, site and HVAC; and the construction management students will focus on creating a project schedule while ensuring proper lead times.

 

 

The intent of the program is to provide a “real world” scenario where students can learn about the tasks of professionals in the different areas of ACE, while creating a fun and interactive learning environment. As a volunteer, my biggest satisfaction is knowing that I can provide insight into what otherwise might be muddy waters for these students. Being able to positively impact students’ career choice, even if it is outside of the realm of ACE, is something that I see as a privilege.

If you are in a role within the ACE industry and are interested in joining the organization as a volunteer, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

 

 

 

 

By: Filipe Pereira, M. Arch, LEED Green Associate

Celebrating Women with PWC

Given industry demographics, being a woman in construction tends to draw a lot of attention. We are constantly asked, why construction? Why architecture? Why engineering? It is as if it’s a strange idea for a woman to have an interest in building. But last week at PWC’s event local women in the field gathered together to celebrate women in construction. It was an excellent example of why we are involved in the AEC Industry. Some of us may have stumbled upon it while others have been passionate about their work since a young age. But either way, hearing their stories of their road to the AEC industry and why they continue on this journey was a reminder that anyone can make a career out of it, even if the statistics are against you.

By Michelle Bellucci

 

 

Attending the PWC’s Reshaping the Workforce event last week was a great opportunity to come together with other AEC women (and men) in support of one another. It made us aware of the progress and contributions we have made in the industry so far, as well as reminding us not to stop now, to continue to push ourselves and others. Just starting off in the industry, it was inspiring, and humbling at times to hear the experience and wisdom from women who have been the change they wanted to see. I am proud to be part of such a great organization that continually brings together so many women and men from different professions, generations and companies, united in the support of women paving their way in the AEC industry.

By Laura Crosskey

 

 

By: Michelle Bellucci, LEED Green Associate and Laura Crosskey, M. Arch

The Role of Developers in Preserving Main Streets

The old adage, everything old is new again, holds true in most facets of everyday life. Styles of clothing change reincarnated in different forms, the bold neon colors of the 1980s have reemerged in current athletic wear. Movies are no longer original ideas, but rather remakes of past hits; in 2014 alone, new renditions of RoboCop, Annie, Godzilla, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among others, appeared in theaters. Old buildings, particularly in downtown business districts, are being rediscovered as an alternative to new construction. This trend is fueled by a desire to maintain an emotional and aesthetic tie to the past and requires the effort of interested parties, which appear in many forms, including community groups, preservation organizations, and municipalities. Often overlooked, however, is the role developers can play in the revitalization of Main Streets across the country, particularly in the rehabilitation of mixed-use spaces downtown.

 

home_main_street_yankee_pedlar_yesteryear

 

As housing increased in the suburbs after the Second World War, we also see the emergence of the suburban corporate landscape in the form of office parks, corporate campuses, and corporate estates. The disintegration of the city as an epicenter for commerce, the rise of suburban housing subdivisions, and the social and economic impact of the new suburban corporate structures provides context for why so many city office buildings have been left deserted. The abandonment of Main Street and the subsequent decay of its landscape have provided a blank canvas for redevelopment.

 

main_street_danbury-preview

 

Developers often carry with them a stigma of destruction, of the heartless big business with only financial interests in mind. As seen in countless movies, developers attempt to demolish culturally significant or historic properties, making way for shiny new shopping centers and luxury condos. The portrayal of developers, as any character in film or literature, is often overblown and fictitious. Although some developers do embody this persona of the greedy corporation whose interests lay only in monetary gain, others seek opportunities to revitalize communities by rehabilitating properties with historic or architectural significance. Many resources exist on the subject of historic preservation from a community or organizational perspective, but the role developers can play in rehabilitation and restoration of older properties has been neglected. In addition to documenting the importance and effectiveness of historic preservation to the civic and economic redevelopment of cities and downtowns, this paper will introduce the role that developers can have in bringing these rehabilitation projects to fruition.

 

 

 

 

By Aileen Bastos, MA

CANstruction with Our Piece of the Pie

Donating a total of 2,708 canned goods, together OPP and Crosskey Architects are fighting hunger by creating one big piece of piece of pie. OPP’s logo, a piece of pie, suggests that everyone should have a piece of the pie, a sharing of something. Our can selection was based on color, nutritional value and composition of aesthetics in an attempt to manifest our mission. What better way to send a message about hunger than using the idiom our piece of the pie, and who doesn’t love pie?

Building Wellness in the Community

Wellness: the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort

Reid and Hughes building of Norwich, CT currently

Reid and Hughes building, currently

The built environment is a physical, (temporarily) permanent representation of our community and ourselves. We live, work, love, and play in buildings and the space between them, and the organization and character of those buildings reflect the culture and values of our society.

The quality of our built environment can be a barometer for the health and wellbeing of our communities, whether they be the city, town, neighborhood, or the street where we live. When a neighbor moves out, the street may lose a bit of vibrancy, life, and activity, all signs of a healthy community. If the house is left vacant over time, the building itself may by physically deteriorating or even falling into disrepair; the same can be seen in a downtown when a business closes and the storefronts are boarded up.

Our work at Crosskey is often focused on repairing or transforming structures that have lost vibrancy, and achieving this effort takes a community of people working together. Architects are partners in performing the work of design and construction, but we require the inspiration of a group of people and their hard work and dedication to give our projects a reason for being.

 

Change takes a family deciding to open a restaurant in the building downtown. It takes a developer working with local leaders to bring affordable housing to an abandoned mill or factory. It may take a group of citizens contacting their local government about a property falling into disrepair and it takes persistence to obtain funding, support, and approval from agencies and planning boards to create positive, physical changes. All of this and more are part of the process to work towards the physical wellbeing of our built environments, and it can start with something small.

Crosskey Architects, LLC vision for Reid and Hughes building of the future

Vision for Reid and Hughes building of the future

Last month, Crosskey employees signed a petition to stop the planned demolition of the Reid and Hughes Building in Downtown Norwich, Connecticut. The building, dating to the 1880s, is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, yet it has been vacant for many years and has fallen into disrepair. There is currently a proposal by the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development to repair and convert the Reid and Hughes building into a mix of commercial space and twenty units of affordable housing, with half designated for formerly homeless veterans. If this plan is allowed to move forward the project could contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community in more ways than one.

Building wellness in our communities takes consistent, deliberate effort and we are happy to be a part of the story of transformation in any way that we can.

 

 

 

By: Erin Marceno, M. Arch

Every Building Needs a Champion


Whether new construction or renovation, every structure needs a champion, specifically, a sustainability champion.

Sustainable buildings are often thought of by developers, owners, and architects, as being more expensive than conventional construction. The standard design approach is, “what can be done with the budget available?” However, once a commitment is made to designing healthy and efficient buildings, the design approach becomes, “how can we honor the natural environment of a particular geographic location while enriching the building occupants?”

By utilizing the natural environmental gifts and assisting the process by introducing renewable energy created on the site, we are able to achieve energy equilibrium at the cost of conventional construction. Commitment is the key component followed by simplicity in construction.

We at Crosskey Architects have embraced the healthy building philosophy, with the use of natural environment; air, water, light and heat in conjunction with the adaptive reuse of man-made structures of past generations.

 

By Silvana Righenzi, LEED AP, BD + C

A Tale of Two Conferences

An architect and a business development specialist walk into the 2016 Connecticut Housing Coalition Annual Conference. These are their responses to the event.

From the Eyes of an Architect

Often in architecture we hear speeches about how important it is that we provide affordable housing, that entreat us to pat ourselves on the back for the hard work that we’ve done, or how the economy is looking brighter. We don’t always hear (or see) the kind of impact we, as architects, have on the lives of people when we neglect our responsibilities.

Alex Kotlowitzs, Connecticut Housing Coalition Annual Conference keynote speaker, however, chose in his speech last Thursday to uncover the raw issues currently facing not only our state, but our entire nation. His honesty awoke us all from a daze to remind us that our war against poverty, drugs, violence, and homelessness is still very real. As he spoke, the room became quiet and full of guilt; but I like to think that we all left that room motivated to go back to our offices and deal with this problem head on.

Yes, we have made improvements. Yes, we have invested our time and tax dollars. But no, we have not resolved this issue. And it is our responsibility to ensure that our work is focused on healing our communities and providing a safe haven, a place where people want to live, to raise a family, to work, to educate, and most importantly, to create a better future for the next generation.

As Seen by a Business Developer

Housing in Connecticut has been undeniably emphasized and improved during the past five years, as much needed advancement for our state as we work to develop the standard of living for each of our citizens. Today, we stand equipped with excellent homes, both completed and in current construction, for the people of Connecticut to establish their lives within. Our next task seems to be to tackle the social, societal, bureaucratic, political, and environmental challenges that face our residents in achieving the highest quality of living.

Last week’s Annual Conference of the Connecticut Housing Coalition touched on several of these related ripples, including housing availability for an aging population of Connecticut residents no longer in need or desire of large homes, the power of zoning in positively shaping a community, chronic homelessness, housing after incarceration, and many other very real and relevant issues.

Open dialogue and education on subjects such as these is absolutely necessary to make the immense housing development undertaken in Connecticut viable, and empower our communities to thrive. It was both informative and invigorating to join a diverse group, reflective, itself, of Connecticut, to speak about these challenges.

 

By Michelle Bellucci, LEED Green Associate and Carissa Duhamel