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September Eve Banks
Senior Thesis 2016

This world of ours... we must avoid
becoming a community of dreadful
fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud
confederation of mutual trust and respect.



Virginia Commonwealth University’s student
body has increased by over 7,000 students since 2000.
To accommodate new students and program facilities,
the university has invested millions of dollars in new
construction projects on both campuses. Although
VCU’s involvement in the community has likely
made the area safer, permanent residents often
suggest that Richmond has a strong preference
for the university’s interests and gentrification has
isolated the student body from the general public.

Evidence of this tension can be found within
the renovation efforts of Monroe Park. Since its
construction in 1851, it has been a place for residents
to connect and gather. It has been home to summer
festivals, protests, and memorials and its history
spans far beyond the gaze of VCU. In recent years,
negative public perception has painted the area as a
haven for the homeless and those living in poverty.
Dozens of community organizations and church
groups met weekly to distribute food and clothing to
those in need. With its closure in November 2016,
these vulnerable populations have lost a sense
of community and point of assembly. In a 2016
article by the Richmond Times Dispatch, resident
Beth Smith stated “It felt like I had a second home”.
Another source of tension between VCU and
the permanent residents of Richmond stemmed
from the creation and distribution of shirts reading
“We built this city”. The shirts were an effort of the
Students Today Alumni Tomorrow (STAT) during
Welcome Week 2014. Both STAT and VCU at large
received heavy criticism for the shirts because they
were said to sanitize a deep history of discrimination
and diminish the efforts of permanent residents.

With growing tensions between the
VCU community and vulnerable community of
permanent residents, it is important to provide
spaces where residents can gather, receive support
and reclaim a piece of Richmond as their own.


I will design a community center that will serve as a
resource to the permanent residents of Richmond. To
accommodate those displaced by VCU construction,
it will have a storefront presence on Broad Street, at
a location between the Bowe Street Parking Deck
and the arts district. It will offer meeting spaces for
local non-profit groups, free or low-cost community
workshops, cultural activities and a limited amount
research space This will act as a new community hub
and will be called the Urban Resource Building (URB).

case studies
building selection

Community centers are public areas where members of
a community can gather for group activities, social support,
public information, and other purposes. This definition is
broad, making all of the following possible examples of a
community center:

Cultural Centers
Fitness Centers
Activity Centers
Public Libraries
Summer Camps
Non-Profit Headquarters

The ownership of the facility can greatly determine its program and
stakeholders, as well as the equality in distribution of services. I have
separated the ownership of these spaces into three categories:
1) Government Owned or Sponsored: These are usually created
through a Parks and Recreation Department or a Development
Department and allocated where urban planners see a need. These can
include public libraries, or recreation centers geared toward physical
2) Community Owned: An example of this would be a non-profit
program that has opened up space and resources that the community
can benefit at low-no cost. This can often include churches that are open
to the public.
3) Private Usage: I have defined this as a space that is exclusive
to members of a certain community or paid membership group. An
example of this could be a fitness center, business services center
where meetings are held, or a community clubhouse only accessible by
residents of a community.

For the purposes of this project, a community center will be
an indoor, public space that provides residents of a vulnerable
community with resources.


Community centers have a direct affect
on the quality of life in an area, especially for the
underprivileged and members of minority groups.
Richmond contains many vulnerable populations who
could benefit from an expanded network of resources.

This especially includes the homeless
population, who lack permanent resources and often
travel far distances to complete their daily tasks.
Homeless populations are often displaced
and have
to re-learn their environment and location of resources.

It is important to note that a community center
should be an inclusive space, accessible to all residents
of an area. However, vulnerable populations could stand
to benefit most from community center on Broad Street.
Permanent residents of Richmond often feel that VCU and its
students have slowly taken over the city and its resources.

In 2016


residents of the City of Richmond
lived below the poverty line,
the 2nd highest rate in Virginia.

In 2013, Richmond was ranked
On any given night


Richmonders spend the night on

the streets.


among cities with 150,000 people
in terms on income inequality.

As of June 2016, Richmond had the second highest rate of child
poverty in the state of Virginia. At 39%, it nearly doubles the state average.
Poverty has a lasting effect on both physical and mental health, especially on
a developing mind. Chronic stress due to poverty has been proven to cause
behavioralproblemslaterinlife.Povertyandhomelessnessalsomake receiving
an education extremely difficult, and in turn the cycle of poverty continues.


For thousands of years, humans have used art as a way to
express their ideas and connect with the world around them. Children
and teens especially benefit from art programs, as art can become
an outlet that heals emotional scars. Children that are involved in art
programs are 4 times as likely to be recognized for academics in their
high school years. Music programs also improve math and reading
skills, while raising confidence levels and social skills. High risk students
are especially likely to benefit from supplemental arts courses, but
funding for these programs has steadily decreased. This often means
that even school programs are reduced or even cut completely.

A family that cannot afford basic necessities likely
struggles to enroll their children in enriching activities that
require a membership fee. This certainly applies to the arts,
which often have class fees and require expensive materials.
Providing a safe space for free community art classes could
invigorate the next generation of artists in


There is a widening gap between children in poverty and access
to computer and the internet. The availability of computer is essential for
homework assignments, researching universities, or exploring a hobby.
Providing a central pop-in station for computer use could provide young minds
with an impromptu study center or meeting space to work on school projects.


of Children in the U.S. will spend
at least one year in poverty
before turning 18.
In 2008, only


of US students had access to
school visual arts programs three
times a week.

In 2016, Virginia lost

in public arts funding.

In 2011,


of Richmonders
were 55 or older.

Today, only


of Seniors in the USA
use social media to stay connected.

Prolonged social isolation in
seniors can equal the health
risks of smoking


cigarettes per day.

As of 2011, the Statewide Age Ready Indicator
Survey predicted that the number of people aged
55 or older will double by the year 2030 in the state
of Virginia. Baby boomers are living longer and
face many difficulties other demographics do not
encounter. Seniors are vulnerable to health problems,
depression, financial instability and would benefit from
a resource that connects them back to their community.

6 Ways to Help Seniors
Avoid Social Isolation
1.Promote a sense of purpose
2.Give a senior something to take care of
3.Make adaptive technologies available
4.Encourage dining with others
5.Give extra support to those who have lost a spouse
6. Create accessible spaces for those
without transportation
Exerpt from “14 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Isolation” by by Jeff Anderson


In the age of social media, staying connected
with family members and friends has never been easier.
Unfortunately, many seniors have not adjusted to this new
form of communication. Workshops that teach the elderly
how to use technologies such as Facebook, Skype, and e-mail
would benefit the relationships between users on both ends.


Social networks can be even more important
in the physical world than online. In 2010, the number
of seniors living alone had increased to 28%. Social
isolation has numerous effects on seniors, including
a greater risk of mortality, quicker progression of
Alzheimer’s and dementia, and poor self-care habits.

Creating a space where people of all age
groups can connect through social projects and
events will help to strengthen community bonds
and will only serve to make a greater Richmond.

Building a stronger sense of community often starts with
strengthening families. Women, especially those with children, often carry
many responsibilities inside and outside of the home. In 1976, 39% of
mothers with children one year or older worked. Now, that percentage
has increased to 72%. On average, mothers spend 2.6 hours per day on
primary childcare, while fathers spend 1.6 hours today. There is an obvious
correlation between the many responsibilities of motherhood and high
stress levels. Women and mothers would benefit greatly from a space where
they can gather in support groups, de-stress, and take time for themselves.


Support groups are a low-cost way for people to process
their feelings and improve their mental health, while forming deep
connections with other members and creating a new social network.
They can also be valuable spaces that promote education and teach
skills that benefit parents, in turn strengthening families. While it is
important for parents to have time away from their children, workshops
that include the whole family are also essential in building the family.
A few examples of workshops that would benefit families include:

- Breastfeeding workshop

- Couples communication

- Grief support groups

- Single parent support groups

- Family art classes

- Healthy-eating workshops

In 2013,


of Richmond families were made
of single-parent households

of single-family households
were headed by women

In 2010, nearly


of US families lived
below the poverty line

table of contents
case studies
building selection

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Teeple Architects
190,000 ft2
Completed 2004

Claireview Community Recreation
Centre is a innovative complex in the Heart
of Edmonton, Canada. It offers a vast array of
services to residents of all ages and interests.
One of the main factors in site selection was the
proximity to public schools and accessibility via
bus line.

This facility is successful because it
manages to consolidate many public needs into
one space. In essence, this promotes the idea that
all of these spaces are connected and important
to the overall health of the community.

Some of the services provided include:
- public library
-youth lounge
-senior lounge
-computer resource room
-non-profit office space
- multicultural centre
- meeting rooms
-fitness facility
- Olympic sized pool
- outdoor park facilities


One of the main design elements of the space
was the transparency on both the exterior and interior.
As a visitor approaches, they can see views of the public
library, fitness center, public arena, swimming pool and
multicultural center. The spaces on the interior are also
connected through sight, by using glass and semitransparent materials. Natural light within the space is
abundant and helps the building become more efficient. It
achieved a LEED Silver certification upon its completion.

This space was extremely useful in terms of my
project, because it emphasized the need for community
involvement. Several workshops were held among
the residents to determine what public services were
most needed. It is essential to canvas an area of any
urban development and build a comprehensive store
of data and opinion that drives the design of a space.

In some ways, this type of space would not be
totally feasible in the context of my project. If I were to
design a space on Broad Street, it would be impossible
to find a building with a similar capacity. The sheer size
of Clareview Community Recreation Centre allows for such
a large program. Moving forward, I have determined that
my space will not include a physical fitness component,
as this would take up the largest amount of space.
In addition, there are other fitness resources in close
proximity, such as Cary Street Gym, and the YMCA.

I also decided that my space does not
necessarily need a library as large as the one in this
project. The Richmond Public Library already serves as
a great resource to the community, and is fairly close
to my proposed site. My project will instead include a
pop-up center that closer resembles a computer lab.

Almenar de Soria, Spain
120 m2
Completed 2015

Senpa Centro Socioculturo
is a
community center located in Almenar de Soria,
Spain and began as an agricultural warehouse.
In the 1990’s, the Spanish National Grain Storage
Network donated the building to the local
neighborhood association and municipal council.
After its renovation, the space became an event
hall with a rotation of concerts and exhibitions.

The architects describe the space
as being “too small for machinery, but
perfect for people”. Today, it is one of the
only public gathering spaces in the area.
Left: Post Renovation, Right: Pre-Renovation


For the time being, only one of the three sheds have
been renovated. However, the center’s popularity has sparked
discussion of converting the other two spaces for a similar use.

Another highlight
movable kitchen facilities
extremely flexible and its
Many of the tables and

in the building is the inclusion of
and dividers. This makes the space
uses can meet more community needs.
surfaces are modular and simply made.

The idea of modular spaces is extremely important in
regards to my project. In order to accommodate the many uses of
my space, dividers of a similar construction would be useful. I also
noticed that the rectangular shape of the building mimics many
spaces on Broad Street. Studying the different configurations of such
a long and narrow space will be useful when creating my floor plan.

Richmond, Virginia
Hostelling International
13,000 ft2
Completed 2015

HI Richmond Hostel was a highly anticipated
project for the city of Richmond. Aside from being the only
hostel in the city, it serves as a cultural hub that connects
travelers from all around the world at an affordable price.

The building was originally home to Otis
Elevators until 1943, when it became a state-owned
womens’ detention center. When Hostelling International
bought the building, they agreed to maintain many of
its historical features in return for special tax credits.

The hostel itself can sleep 55 people and features
a large common area where travelers can gather, watch
films, play pool, and get to know one another. The
building also boats a community kitchen where hostel
guests can store food, cook together, and share meals.


The space has placed a huge emphasis on involving the
Richmond community. In the common area, a weekly event board
displays community events in the area. Many of these events are open
to residents, rather than just the hostel guests. This increases a sense of
authenticity and allows both Richmonders and travelers a broader view
of the city. The hostel has plans to join with community groups and local
schools, and expand its events to include local non-profit organizations.

The communal kitchen has been a major inspiration in regards
to my project. Monthly workshops, held by professional chefs, show
the importance of healthy eating and foster a sense of community
among those who are dining together. The culture of the food varies
greatly, and highlights Richmond’s presence as a growing global city.

Although the program of this space leans toward the
commercial, it has strong links to many of the ideas in my project.
Fostering a sense of community among Richmonders is extremely
important, and creating safe spaces where people can learn
from each other helps alleviate tensions within the community.

table of contents
case studies
building selection



The Fan

Byrd Park

Possible Building Area





W kso
ar n




I left this section black because I haven’t picked my building yet!! :)
But I think it will likely be a building on Broad, similar is shape and size to the Depot.

table of contents
case studies
building selection


My space will essentially be accessible
to any resident of the City of Richmond.
Registered community groups will be able
to reserve meeting spaces via the internet.
Examples of group activities:
- healthy eating workshop
- childrens’ art classes
- parenting support groups
- senior socials
Other resources that will be available:
- computer lab with access to printing,
scanning, and simple portrait backdrop
- open kitchen hours to be utilized by the
community as they wish

Large Event Space

Greet and direct users
When fully opened, house
planned cultural activities

Square Footage
300 sq. ft.
2000 sq. ft.

Auxillary Space 1
Auxillary Space 2
Auxillary Space 3
Auxillary Space 4

Special Requirements
Reception Desk
Retractable partitions,
projector with slide down
screens connected to walls
AV Set up, television

These spaces exist as
modules within the large
event spaces and can be
reserved by community
groups for workshops.

Small Meeting Room 1

200 sq. ft.

AV Set up, television

Small Meeting Room 2
Large Meeting Room
Kitchen Space

200 sq. ft.
400 sq. ft.
700 sq. ft.

AV Set up, television
AV Set up, television
Workshop desks for
interactive tutorials,
commercial kitchen
6 computers, scanner,
portrait backdrop

Computer Resource Lab

Pop-in computer lab

r esq.
g oft.n

4200 sq. ft.







Immediate connection via corridor
Strong connection
Divided Space


Works Cited
Adesanya, Ireti. "Richmond Ranks High in Income Inequality." The MMJ Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.
@aquafortis. "20 Facts about Senior Isolation That Will Stun You." Senior Assisted Living Guides: Find Senior Care A Place for Mom. A Place for Mom, 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
"Clareview Community Recreation Centre / Teeple Architects." ArchDaily. ArchDaily, 18 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.
"Clareview Community Recreation Centre." City of Edmonton. City of Edmonton, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.
"COMMUNITY TRENDS." COMMUNITY TRENDS -- Urban Centers, Suburban Growth and Rural Recreation. N.p., 2007. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.
"DATASHARE.ORG." DATASHARE.ORG. Datashare Metro Richmond, 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
@dcmtheaterarts. "Virginia Commission for the Arts Cuts Funding in Response to Governor's Directive - DCMetroTheaterArts." DCMetroTheaterArts. N.p., 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
@dezeen. "Valentín Sanz Converts Warehouse into Community Centre." Dezeen. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
"(es) SENPA." Liquenlav. Liquenlav, 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.
"Fun Mothering Facts." Happy Worker. Happy Worker, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
Griego, Tina. "The Former Capital of the Confederacy’s All-out Plan to Fight Poverty — and Confront Its past." The Washington Post. WP Company, 2 Sept. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
Http:// "Study: 60 Percent of Richmond Families Are Single Parent." WTVR, 11 June 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
"Making a Difference: Now It's Your Turn." Center for the Study of Social Policy 334.7602 (2007): 32-40. Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
"One22 - Access Opportunity Equity - We Are Better Together!" One22. One22, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016. Richmond Office of Multicultural Affairs, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Photography Credit