An abandoned firehouse has been reborn as the newly certified LEED Gold home for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in Harlem. Developed by CSA Group NY Architects & Engineers in conjunction with real estate agency Denham Wolf, a real estate services firm focused on nonprofits, the cultural center celebrates New York City’s Afro-Caribbean and African-American populations with exhibition and performance spaces, meeting and community rooms, a media center, classrooms and offices. The adaptive reuse project respects the architectural integrity of the historic building and features a variety of sustainable elements, including a green roof and 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified timbers.
Located in the heart of East Harlem’s cultural district at 120 East 125th Street, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute serves as a neighborhood anchor and catalyst for cultural and economic development. The CCCADI took over the former municipal firehouse, Engine Company Number 36, as part of the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Department of Housing Preservation’s initiative to turn decommissioned firehouses into cultural institutions. All parts of the 8,400-square-foot landmark building were preserved wherever possible, save for adjustments needed to meet the city’s current building codes, such as the addition of egress stairs.
“Originally built to serve the local community, before being abandoned and becoming a symbol of blight, the firehouse has fittingly been restored for a public purpose,” said Ronzard Innocent, Director of Project Management at Denham Wolf. “As a connector to arts, culture and social justice, CCCADI brings the story of this building full circle.”
To reach LEED Gold status, CCCADI focuses on saving energy and water while minimizing waste. Thanks to highly efficient bathroom fixtures, the project saves an estimated 37.2 percent in water use compared to standard baselines. The building also boasts an estimated 36.1 percent energy savings from high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. Approximately 92 percent of the project’s construction waste was recycled. The team installed a high-albedo membrane on the roof along with a green roof. Low-emitting paints, coatings, flooring and agrifiber products were used throughout, and more than 20 percent of the materials used were sourced regionally.
Images by Sakeenah Saleem