November 11, 2008
OCTOBER 17, 2008 --BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK -- Rich Vitto, founding partner of OCV Architects, is making a better New York by re-tooling a century-old Historic YWCA building in Binghamton, N.Y.. This challenging gut rehabilitation required a great deal of funding savvy, efficient design, and the courage to ask “why not”? Tapping into the building’s strengths, Vitto helped the YWCA raise funds from a variety of sources by designating childcare facilities, offices, and planning for a gym. Funding came in waves, but Vitto’s design, documents and schedules were flexible enough to adapt to the opportunities and challenges as they arose.
The existing dormitory-style housing was converted to 54 individual apartments outfitted with new 3-piece bathrooms and full kitchens. Common areas include TV lounges, a computer lab and laundry on every floor. This Binghamton and Broome County YWCA also required office space and facilities to operate 6 supportive and special needs programs. These critical offerings include transitional living for adults and young adults, emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, and three permanent supportive housing programs for homeless women and their children. From counseling and healthcare, to career preparation and education, someone seeking shelter from the Binghamton YWCA will also realize a whole new set of skills, goals and the outlook to re-enter the world as the strong woman that she is. The old building was completely reconfigured and geared to support all the programs under this one, cheerful, new roof.
The project challenges went beyond the apparent disrepair. As with any building project, sometimes you don’t know what’s there until you open up the walls. As phase 2 began, while the tenants were moved from the east half of the building to the newly renovated west side of the building, Rich Vitto was confronted with an a-typical infrastructure. He had to redesign phase 2 within a week to accommodate the building’s quirks as well as the project schedule. Even these surprises were met at every turn in the spirit of hope. A spirit of ‘it will get done’. Without this attitude, the project stood little chance of success. In fact, skeptical representatives in Albany called the project a “White Elephant”, stating that the YWCA project amounted to turning a “sow’s ear into a silk purse”. The H.H.A.P. of New York ultimately came around as Vitto built their confidence in OCV’s ability to get the job done.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony on October 17, Carole Coppens, Executive Director of the YWCA, presented the developer, the contractor and Richard Vitto with a sow’s ear and a silk purse — a testament to the amazing results of the groups’ dedicated efforts. To Richard Vitto, she presented something more, a plaque dedicating the new Child Care Center in Rich’s name. This acknowledgement, which brought the cheering crowd to their feet, (including the Mayor of Binghamton, Matt Ryan) was met with a very characteristic, humble and succinct ‘thanks’ from Mr. Vitto.
And that spirit persists as the YWCA pursues funding for one last area; the 23 foot swimming pool located below the ground floor — a feature intended to be used by tenants as part of a comprehensive ‘wellness’ program at the YWCA. When asked if he would undertake another challenge at the YWCA, Mr. Vitto replied, “Well, I’d be surprised if they didn’t call me I guess”.
About the YWCA
The YWCA USA is a women's membership movement nourished by its roots in the Christian faith and sustained by the richness of many beliefs and values. Strengthened by diversity, the YWCA draws together members who strive to create opportunities for women's growth, leadership, and power in order to attain a common vision: peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people. The YWCA will thrust its collective power toward the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, and by any means necessary.
Posted on November 11, 2008 05:24 PM|Permalink
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Oaklander, Coogan and Vitto, P.C., is a versatile, client-driven architecture firm serving the New York Metropolitan area since 1973. Specializing in affordable and special-needs housing, the firm has partnered with many notable urban housing authorities and development groups to create multi-family housing, private homes, commercial spaces, schools, churches and community centers with great respect for each site’s urban landscape, history and culture.
OCV is also a member of The U.S. Green Building Council