Richland Senior Housing and Community Center
Below is an article created by our partners, Pinnacle Architecture about the creation of the Richland School Apartments.
Re-purposing an Aging School into Senior Living
Richland, Oregon is a small community of farmers with an aging population. Senior housing is scarce and many older residents are moving 40+ miles away from their hometown to live out their lives. The community had a desperate need to preserve their town. They found a remarkable opportunity in a boarded up elementary school which Pinnacle transformed to a 10-unit senior/disabled housing and community center with library and public meeting space.
The Richland school sat for nearly a decade as an eye sore to the small community until they took action and approached the Northeast Oregon Housing Authority (NEOHA) for help. The original school was built in two phases (1958 and 1963) and included two wings of classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, and library. The site was level and the building structure had large clear spans good for an interior renovations. NEOHA partnered with a variety of organizations and was able to secure multiple funding opportunities for the project – HOME Investment Partnership Program Grant, Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credits, Trust Fund, GHAP, and Land Gift – equaling $2.3m. With an abundance of community input and support the vision of the center began to take shape.
Integrating the Character of the School into the Design
Adaptive reuse projects are unique and have numerous challenges and opportunities. Planning for contingencies (what’s behind those walls?) and taking advantage of the opportunities an older building provides, the architects repurposed the classroom wings into seven 1-bedroom units and three 2-bedroom units. By partnering with the planning department early, Pinnacle was able to isolate the classroom wings using residential code while the rest of the building’s public space fell under commercial code. This saved the client time and money on unnecessary upgrades based on the use.
Designers focused on keeping the character of the space while creating a place where people wanted to be and reinforcing social interactions. Key design features included retaining the large windows, converting the outdoor overhangs into large covered patios, and creating a homey feel to the hallway space.
The school’s clear span structure (mainly large overhead support beams with limited interior beams) allowed for efficient floor plans and the reuse of the large window gave a very bright and airy feel to the interior spaces. To provide additional character in the hallways, indentions were added for each resident to have the opportunity to customize their front entrance and benches designed for impromptu socialization.
The outdoor over hangings were retained and transformed into large patios not typical of new affordable housing projects. Residents customize the outdoor space and are able to interact with their neighbors both next door and across the grass divide.
This building is not just a residential community; it’s the town’s new community hub. The front of the building is open to the public with a gymnasium, a public meeting room with kitchen used by clubs and for private parties, and the town’s only public library. Combining the senior living with community resources allows the residents to easily stay engaged in their town.
The existence of this building is one of the most wonderful things that ever happened for us.” – Walter Saunders, Jr., Richland Housing Resident
The Pinnacle of Sustainability with a Stellar Occupancy Rate
Richland Community Center average occupancy rate is 90% with very limited turn over. The project provided much needed housing for its seniors, eliminated $5,000 a year for the city in maintenance, and created a community hub for the town. It’s the pinnacle of sustainability – reusing a quality building and giving it another life.
Hear first hand from Northeast Oregon Housing Authority and a resident of the project:
For more information about Pinnacle Architecture please visit their website: http://pinnaclearchitecture.com/
To apply online for the Richland School Apartments visit our online applications here.