The Benefield Project: Design with Purpose
A collaborative partnership between i+s, HKS and Boaz & Ruth
In 2021, ground will be broken on an exciting, community-driven project: the Benefield site in Richmond, VA. This reimagined space will feature retail, makers’ studios, co-living units, and important connections to the surrounding area and transit.
Designed with the local community, this revitalized area will become a place that anchors and supports the community’s youth, serving as a catalyst for change and hope.
The 10,000-square-foot Benefield Building currently has one tenant, the Six Points Innovation Center (6PIC) non-profit, which occupies 4,000 square feet. It is one of many underutilized or vacant buildings lining the Highland Park innovation corridor.
The Highland Park neighborhood is a majority Black community north of downtown Richmond. Its 3,050 residents, together with community-based organizations and business, civic and local faith leaders, are working to reduce poverty and crime, develop solutions to address the area’s widening generational gap and bring resources to the commercial corridor.
Global design giant HKS’ pro-bono adaptive reuse project will empower the Highland Park community to create a purpose for Benefield in a neighborhood that is in the initial stages of revitalization.
The Richmond-based Citizen HKS project team, working with its non-profit partner Boaz & Ruth, organized an intensive community engagement process to create an inclusive design for the Benefield Building, reflective of people’s wants and needs.
Citizen HKS is HKS’ impact initiative, which has dedicated company time and resources to help communities in need since 2014. It is guided by the belief that all people deserve to live in socially, economically and environmentally healthy communities.
The Benefield project’s intent is to create opportunity for the Highland Park community, providing local youth with access to strategic synergies and innovative resources.
[Want to join in on the cause? Email [email protected]]
During the building’s revitalization, i+s and sister brand BUILDINGS will provide extensive coverage of Benefield and its effect on the surrounding community, while also donating 10% of all profits associated with any coverage back into the project.
“i+s is on a mission to elevate the industry by focusing on designs that are infused with purpose,” said Robert Nieminen, chief content director of i+s and BUILDINGS. “But we didn’t just want to pay lip service to the idea; we decided to roll up our sleeves and find a partner who was engaged in projects that positively impact communities and change lives. We were aware of the great work HKS was doing through its Citizen HKS initiative and asked if we could help them with a worthy cause. HKS shared their vision for the Benefield project, and we were sold.”
To complete the project, the Citizen HKS project team plans to work in conjunction with a multitude of A&D manufacturers by incorporating their donated products throughout the building’s interior and exterior.
“By leveraging our industry supplier contacts to donate in-kind products, furnishings and materials or offer them at a reduced price, we are helping to lower the cost of the Benefield project, as well as telling the story in our content to demonstrate the power of design to positively impact the lives of people and the planet,” Nieminen stated.
With the project targeting net zero distinction, the Benefield Building will be just as environmentally responsible as it is socially sustainable.
Design features include an iconic connecting stair, a simple A-frame residential vernacular, second floor community garden, outdoor plaza, community flex space, food and retail space, solar and water harvesting elements, and a feature wall element to be curated by the community that celebrates the story of Highland Park.
Through a robust community engagement process and a unique live/work programmatic model that will incubate local businesses on the first floor and provide mixed income housing above, the Benefield project will not only be a new community center for Highland Park, but a model for similar transformations across the country.
Want to design with purpose and have an impact? Email [email protected].