Since 1982, Part of the Solution (POTS) has been assisting low income individuals and families by providing food, clothing, counseling and other supportive services in the Bronx, New York. In an average year, POTS provides aid to over 12,000 people, distributes over 400,000 meals and prevents evictions for over 150 households through legal representation.
What began as a soup kitchen grew into a holistic, full service facility, addressing every aspect of life’s daily needs. With the economic recession at the time and increase in unemployment, POTS is essential to the Bronx, the poorest urban county in the United States.
The Organization started to outgrow its original 5,000 sf location as overcrowding and long lines began to affect quality of service and several programs had to be suspended due to lack of space. POTS purchased the adjacent 15,000 sf building to expand its mission. The plan was to triple its programming and storage capacity and offer a wider array of programs.
The primary concern of the design was to instill POTS’ clients with a sense of self-respect and belonging. To that end, the principle concept of attending to the mind, body and spirit was translated into the physical arrangement of the three floors, each with a separate focus on hygiene, food service or counseling support. The lower floor holds modern medical suites containing exam rooms and dental operatories, as well as showers, a barber shop and a clothing program. The main floor holds a new restaurant style kitchen with a walk-in freezer as well as a dining area, the heart and soul of the non-profit, serving healthy meals to the homeless, poor and working poor. Down the hall, the new food pantry was designed as a self-select "grocery store" that is easily navigated and always fully stocked. Cooking and nutrition classes are also available. The top floor offers employment and legal services and holds the POTS administrative offices and conference rooms.
After a complete gut renovation, the entire first floor structure was replaced with much of the existing 2nd floor structure reused and salvaged. New mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were installed throughout the building to support the program functions and a hydraulic elevator was installed for full ADA compliance.
The facade was redesigned with brick to imbue the building with a sense of solidity and permanence, and with ample glazing to bring in natural light. The brick and glass are installed at different planes to emphasize the interplay of solid and void. The modernist dialogue of the design elements and materials were intended to ensure that the building be distinguishable from the cacophony of bodegas and tire repair shops along Webster Avenue while remaining respectful to the scale of the neighborhood.
Throughout the project Spacesmith found inexpensive yet dramatic opportunities to create an empowering, welcoming environment. Staircases now have views and natural light. Public areas are dotted with inspiring words. Exposed brick, concrete floors, and reclaimed wood materials lend a reassuring “down to earth” feel to the building. Playful graphics are coordinated with various sections of the building to keep spirits high and help navigation from program to program.
The ribbon cutting for the new building was held in January of 2012 and marked the 30th birthday of this charitable institution. To quote New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn “To have a building this nice sends a message that just because you hit a bad spot in the road, you will still be served with dignity.”