Text description provided by the architects.
Reimagining Benefield is a project located in a majority African American community north of Richmond, Virginia that has long endured poverty, crime and a widening generational gap. Our project team took exceptional strides to ensure it was designed by the people of Highland Park FOR the people of Highland Park, serving as a model of community engagement and inclusive design that strives to be an anchor and a catalyst to nurture the community’s youth and propagate change and hope.
An adaptive reuse of a mostly vacant building, Benefield is a unique live/work programmatic model that incubates local businesses on the first floor and provide mixed income housing above. It aims to be the heart of Highland Park – and a model for similar transformations across the country.
The project’s intent is to create opportunity for the Highland Park community, elevating the local youth’s talents with access to strategic synergies and innovative resources.
It’s a place to incubate dreams while reconnecting with the wisdom and love of older generations – and with time, become an example of equality and opportunity in a caring, connected environment that’s rooted in the strength of the community’s black history. The design reinvigorates the existing first floor space while preserving the historical 1920s Spanish Art Deco elevation as the front door to the Community Center.
Creating synergies and connectivity with the building’s existing tenant, the 6 Points Innovation Center (6PIC), was a key design driver to bridge the generational gap through mentoring local youth through the “White Box” maker/testing space. Design features include an iconic connecting stair; the simple A frame residential vernacular; second floor community garden; outdoor plaza; community flex space; food; solar and water harvesting elements, and the “jewel” – a feature wall element to be curated by the community – that celebrates the story of Highland Park.