Nineteenth century derelict building reborn for veterans housing
A decade ago, Bill Czmyr, Post Commander of American Legion Post 15 in Jewett City, Connecticut, realized that the Post's building, a ramshackle and deteriorated four story brick building circa 1879, might have the potential to be renovated into a facility for permanent housing for homeless veterans. Czmyr has said, "Somewhere in life, they [the veterans] made a wrong turn, hit a bump or just made a wrong choice. The veterans need our help to get back on track. This is our responsibility." Thus, The American Legion Veterans Housing Inc. (TALVHI) was born. It took several years of hard work and dogged perseverance to finally obtain substantial support from CHFA (Connecticut Housing Finance Authority) and others.
Lindsey Liebig LLP became involved in this project in 2008 as consultants and then selected to design the entire project. The project program required the complete reconstruction of the existing 9100 sq ft four-story brick building and construction of a 10,900 sq ft addition, providing eighteen one-bedroom housing units built to CHFA's stringent standards.
The existing building was in extremely poor condition, including a fire damaged roof, a large pigeon colony, extensive dry rot and exterior brick walls so deteriorated that 100% repointing and substantial rebuilding were required. Also included were construction of continuous grade beam buttresses along the exterior foundation walls, underpinning of the foundation near the addition, new floor structures with steel columns and beams and wood joists, and removal and complete replacement of the roof with new free-span wood trusses.
Iron brackets, originally supporting a balcony, were converted into exterior light fixtures. The addition is constructed of conventional wood framing, floor structure using a combination of truss joists, wood i-joists, and steel beams and columns, with a wood truss roof. Its design complements, not mimics, the brick building.
The addition includes an entrance lobby, elevator tower, connector corridors, offices, counselling rooms and common rooms. There is a laundry and exercise gym in the basement. All new MEP and fire protection systems were installed, including a geothermal heating/cooling system with nine vertical wells averaging 700 feet deep. Completed in June 2012, this project is regarded as a national model for permanent, not transitional, housing and is being studied by veteran's agencies for future developments. Construction took fourteen months.