See How We're Responding to Covid-19
The Ridge Road Community Center replaces a dilapidated facility dating to the 1950’s with a new neighborhood center providing critical health and wellness programs to the underserved population of Washington, DC’s Ward 7. Several acres of land with athletic fields, an outdoor public pool, basketball courts, a wooded nature area, and two small buildings previously served the recreational needs of hundreds of users. However well loved, portions of these facilities were out-of-date and required immediate improvement and replacement. In 2012, the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of General Services initiated efforts to bring a new LEED certified facility and extend a welcoming hand to a broad cross-section of community stakeholders.
CGS Architects was commissioned to collaborate with District agencies and neighborhood stakeholders to design and administer construction on a new community recreation facility with extensive site redevelopment. Through active engagement and research of modern recreation facilities, CGS Architects refined the program of spaces to be accommodated within a new building serving both athletic and community functions for facility users. Specifically, a multi-purpose room for classes, meetings, and community functions; a full-size indoor basketball court with alternative striping and embeds for half-court practice play and volleyball; fitness rooms; and spaces tailored to serve teens and seniors were included. The Center has quickly become a valuable asset to its surrounding community, thriving as a hub of activity for youth, families, senior citizens, and civic organizations. It has had a stabilizing effect on the lives of neighborhood youth by providing safe and appropriately equipped spaces for physical activities that instill discipline, healthy exercise habits, and teamwork. Moreover, it has become an inclusive environment where after school programs provide a refuge for at-risk adolescents, ensuring they have a healthy outlet for their creativity and energy as an important step towards long-term neighborhood improvement.
Constructed in 1935, the Palisades Recreation Center was an early example of a public recreation facility built in the Nation’s Capital. It was sited overlooking the Potomac River on land that was a Native American habitation over a millennium ago. In 2016, the facility was added to the District of Columbia’s list of Landmark Structures and list of Landmark Sites. These designations limited the scope of what could be modified in a modernization and renovation.
The existing property includes several acres of land with an outdoor splash park, basketball court, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, skate park, community gardens, wooded areas, and a nature walk serving the recreational needs of the Palisades community. Although well-loved and used by the community, major portions of the existing facility were outdated, worn, and required immediate improvement and replacement; the building had not seen substantial improvement since its construction.
In 2016, the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the Department of General Services (DGS) initiated their efforts to bring improvements and new facilities to the Palisades community. CGS Architects was commissioned to collaborate with District agencies and community stakeholders to design and administer construction on a modernized and expanded community recreation facility and extensive site redevelopment. CGS Architects worked closely with regulatory review boards and their staffs including the DC Historic Preservation Office, Federal Commission of Fine Arts, and the US National Park Services to sensitively restore and enlarge the existing landmark structure and site.
Particularly of note, dirt was pushed to the periphery of the site during original construction of the building, moving Native American artifacts to these areas where they still sit today. During the renovation, many of the artifacts were retrieved and placed in the Palisades Museum which is located within the recreation center.
The Palisades Neighborhood Library houses approximately 12,000 volumes and is DC’s sixth-oldest library location, opening to the public on November 20, 1964. The current building is the second home of the library, which was started as a sub-branch in the Conduit Road School, a one-room schoolhouse in 1928. The existing building had not undergone substantial renovations and improvements since its original construction.
Though the neighborhood library had ‘good bones’, the building needed significant work to be brought up to modern library program standards and a more functional resource for the community. Many of the building systems, including mechanical, electrical, lighting, and plumbing, were original and required complete replacement. The facility also required significant improvements to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. The building envelope including the walls and roof did not incorporate insulation, which was added. New roofing was installed and designed to support a green roof system required to meet stringent DC stormwater management and sustainable sites mandates.
The original vestibule and circulation desk volume was replaced with an expanded entrance, aligning with the established rhythm of the existing building bays and structure. The design utilized exposed structural steel framing elements and a continuous aluminum storefront and entry system. The glass volume at the entry and lower level allows for greater connectivity between the building interior and the exterior environment while making the building's spatial layout more understandable to the community.
Windows at the second-floor children’s reading area were substantially lowered to bring daylight into the building and allow for enhanced exterior views. Bay window reading nooks were designed for each opening where kids have been known to curl up with a good book or take a nap. Bright colors and murals also enliven the children’s reading area.
The library system initially believed this renovation would be a temporary fix with the assumption they would need to expand in the future. In an exciting turn of events, the project was such a success that DC Public librarians unanimously decided there is no need to envision a new library. The Palisades Neighborhood Library is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The Commons at Stanton Square is a unique collaboration created by the Horning Family Fund who partners with communities to address inequity and improve educational and economic outcomes for children and families in Washington, DC’s underserved Ward 8. In addition to Community of Hope - a non-profit committed to providing resources for mental health, homeless prevention, and healthy pregnancies - the building houses Martha’s Table - an active charity and volunteer center supporting strong children, strong families, and strong communities through access to high-quality education, healthy food, and community support. From inception, the building’s program goals were to manifest Martha’s Table’s mission through initiatives that assist low-income parents by providing quality education focused on literacy, social and behavioral development, health and well-being, and parent engagement.
The building forms a neighborhood core and serves as a hub for the wide range of community services it provides. Distinct programs are each configured in a manner to operate as “programs within the program” to ensure appropriate security and confidentiality for the clients each serve. The heart of the program is manifest in the “Crossroads”, a central hub around-which all building spaces and program activities flow. Filled with light, color, and texture, it connects the community on all levels with programs such as cooking demonstrations, live music, dance, and activities for neighborhood children. In this regard it lives the concept of the “Third Place”; public places where people gather and interact, allowing users to simply enjoy the company and conversation around them - the heart of a community's social vitality. The neighborhood a child grows-up in is a critical determinant of their future outcomes. A complex web of social, governmental, physical, and economic factors defines their success. In this context, the community impact of the Commons is palpable and measurable. Each day, visitors shop for free, fresh food, teens and adults utilize wellness screening services and neighborhood children stream to classrooms for daylong and after-school care. CGS’s vision and collaborative efforts ensured that the building quickly become deeply embedded in the community and manifest the program’s belief that every child – regardless of zip code – deserves the opportunity for their brightest future and a deeply engaged family and community committed to their success.