Harbor House at the YWCA

Organization Name: Xenolith Partners and YWCA North Eastern NY

Project Title: Harbor House at the YWCA

Project Location: 44 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305 (Stockade Historic District)

Project Description:
Harbor House at the YWCA is designed to meet the needs of those most frequently served by the YWCA NorthEastern New York (YWCA NENY)–survivors of domestic violence. This 100% supportive development will offer 54 new built units for women (trans-inclusive) on YWCA NENY’s existing campus in the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady. Fifty units will be studios designed for individuals while the remainder are two-bedrooms to accommodate small families. The project is located in a walkable neighborhood that is well-served by public transportation, access to employment and educational opportunities, restaurants, grocery stores, municipal services, and parks. Harbor House uses trauma-informed design guidelines to create a sense of safety, support, and community. Specific interventions include: clustering of units; an abundance of natural light and view corridors to provide residents with visual connection to the outdoors; layers of semi-private and semi-public common spaces, including a double-height great room; and an even distribution of supportive services across all floors of the building. These ideas are even more important during a pandemic given concerns around personal space and crowded places.

Community Impact:
Since 1888, YWCA NENY has been an innovator of programs and services to meet the changing needs of vulnerable people in Schenectady. Harbor House represents the next evolution for the organization. This locally-sensitive, contextual, resilient and sustainably-designed building will help to mitigate chronic social, economic, and health disparities for Schenectady residents. Located in an historic district, the design strikes a balance with a façade that is appropriate for its surroundings while being mindful of the programmatic needs of the YWCA and present-day construction materials and techniques. The project team embraced a community engagement process for over two years to ensure that the final result was a well-received addition to the Stockade District. The first of two phases, Harbor House will help YWCA NENY re-position its housing strategy away from SROs. The next phase will include the historically sensitive, adaptive reuse of YWCA NENY’s existing building, converting the SRO units and underused space into studios and family units. As SROs require shared facilities, a move to independent living spaces can help limit the transmission of infectious diseases, which is critical during a pandemic.

Organization Description:
Xenolith Partners LLC: woman-owned affordable housing developer specializing in affordable, mixed-income, and mixed-use projects. Since launching in 2016, the firm has focused on developing unique partnerships that amplify the impactful work of its non-profit partners. YWCA NorthEastern New York is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that aims to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Since 1888, YWCA NENY has been an innovator of programs and services to meet the changing needs of vulnerable people in Schenectady.

Team Members:

Magnusson Architecture & Planning (MAP); CPC; Stracher Roth Gilmore Architects; Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.; Spring Line Design; Dente Group; Sterling Environmental Engineering; Sustainable Comfort

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