Ten graduate students in New Jersey School of Architecture (NJSOA) at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) recently won a national prize for their plans to remodel a long abandoned Newark bank building and turn it into a useable and attractive new Head Start school and office. The plans also included creating a community service program and financial plan for Head Start administrators so that the project had a better chance of proceeding.
For their efforts, the NJIT students took the second place, $10,000 prize in the Tenth Annual Community Design Competition sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase, New York City. The money was awarded to the Newark Preschool Council, Inc. (NPC).
"The NPC has a tradition of excellence in child care that continues with the awarding of this latest recognition," said Alan Simms, Preschool Board President. "Excellence in the challenging and competitive world of child care takes dedication and collaboration. We've been fortunate enough to learn these qualities through our on-going relationship with the students at NJIT."
Participating NJIT students were Alan Aboyme, Piscataway; Maricruz Catala, Linden; Celeste Cordero, East Windsor; Thomas Hood, Westport, CT; Jay Shoji Mason, Barbados; John Monchak, Montclair; Rani Raju, Staten Island, NY; Bharath Ramamoorthy, Newark; Darren Scott Moncrieffe, Jamaica; Travis Tyson, Findlay, OH.
To accomplish the project, NJIT graduate students assessed an existing, abandoned building at 505 Clinton Avenue, in the geographic heart of the Clinton Hill section of Newark's South Ward. Built in 1929 as a bank and trust company, the facility had been abandoned since 1971. The City of Newark currently owns it.
The strategy was to revitalize the structure and adaptively reuse the adjacent sites for NPC. “We saw the project as a beacon of hope for the local community,” said Newark native Peter C. Papademetriou, who led the effort. Papademetriou is a professor of architecture at NJSOA and the director of the graduate program in architecture.
The NJIT students were the only group from New Jersey to compete. “Much work went into the effort,” noted Papademetriou. “The competition was part of an intensive comprehensive design studio. The studio plays an important part in the Master of Architecture degree program.”
As the project demonstrates, earning an NJSOA degree not only prepares students for a career in architecture and design, but also offers them practical insights and knowledge of community initiatives. While at NJSOA, students work on at least one community service project, such as this one, in one or more of many design studios that students must complete while obtaining either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In addition, NJSOA offers a graduate program in infrastructure planning and a doctoral degree in urban systems.
NPC began as a Head Start Demonstration Program in 1965. In 1982, NPC became an independent grantee. Its educational program is a permanent, federally funded, early childhood educational program, which today serves nearly 2,500 children and their families in 46 facilities in Newark. Beverly Lynn, executive director of NPC, and key staff members collaborated with the NJIT students in defining the facility needs. Juilan Marsh, executive director of City National Urban Development Corporation, who is associated with NPC, was a financial collaborator.