East DeKalb County Senior Center
In 2018, Pond contracted with DeKalb County, through their existing five-year on-call contract, for design and CA services on the district 5 East DeKalb County Senior Center. The Senior Center is located on the Bruce Street Corridor and is a meaningful project for the community, due to its presence and the history of the site. The Senior Center is approximately 16,000 square feet and includes multi-purpose spaces, administration spaces, an arts and crafts room, a dance room, a full kitchen, a fitness room, library, and lounge. For the residents served by the new East DeKalb Community and Senior Center, the preservation of the community’s historical landscape was personal. Located in the heart of Lithonia, Georgia, and constructed in the 1930s, the former Bruce Street School once served as the community’s high school and its de facto community center. Several residents of the community who attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the new facility were former students at this school and were moved by the way the new facility pays homage to the ruins of the former school across the street. Understanding the historical significance of this site and the role of the new facility to the community was critical when Pond embarked on a design for the new East DeKalb Senior Center. Much like the grassroots efforts of the historic school, this long-sought-after amenity was propelled by the involvement of community stakeholders, especially its seniors. They worked alongside county commissioners to facilitate funding and advocate for this project. Their passion for the outcome underscored the need to create an emotionally resonant space to call home. Pond’s team designed a 16,090-square-foot facility to create a modern space for residents while paying homage to the special character of the neighboring ruins. Centering around the user experience of seniors, the facility incorporates multiple gathering spaces that enhance well-being, reduce isolation, and promote socialization. The large multi-purpose dining room with a moveable partition wall and stage, expansive commercial kitchen, entertainment area, library, offices, and sundeck are key features of the design. To tie in the ruins, the design team used locally sourced Lithonia granite to clad the entry located opposite the historic school. This choice of materials and style juxtaposed against the contemporary elements accentuates the visual importance of the adjacent building. The interface of the undulating rubble stonework and stone dressings match the historic structure, and the masonry units of the new provide a workable solution. Throughout the facility, symbolic elements gesture to the former school, heightening the connectivity between the two buildings. Achieving a clear contrast between new and old while ensuring a successful technical collaboration between materials is bound to present a dilemma that the Pond design team has successfully solved to create a facility that will become the hallmark of the community to be enjoyed for years to come. After breaking ground in 2020, the new facility commemorated its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the summer of 2022. DeKalb County’s Commissioner Mereda-Davis Johnson, Commissioner Lorraine Cochran Johnson, and Mayor Shemeka Reynolds joined the senior community as they celebrated the major milestone, a culmination of the long and emotionally charged journey. Among the attendees was lifelong Lithonia resident, Mrs. Harper. She graduated from the high school in the 1950s. Since the early stages of the project, she worked with stakeholders to make this space come to life and honor the history of the city. “The new center is a much-needed asset to our beautiful Lithonia community”, said Harper. “Despite all we’ve endured in our lives, July 14, 2022, is a blessed day.”
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Dekalb County
Lithonia, GA
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