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  253-261 MLK Drive, Page 32253-261 MLK Drive 
Architect: 
Gami and Associates, P.C. 
910 Bergen Avenue, #206, Jersey City, NJ 07306
www.gami.net

Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Total Square Feet:
27,199
Construction Period:
Aug 2000 to June 2002

Construction Team
General Contractor: Galaxy General Contracting - 3152 Albany Crescent, Bronx, NY 10463
Structural Engineer: Bharati, P.E. P.C. - 93 Demarest Mill Road, West Nyack, NY 10994
Electrical & Mechanical Engineer: Descon Engineering - 167 Ascension Street, Passaic, NJ 07055
Cost Estimator: Gami Associates, P.C. - 910 Bergen Avenue, #206, Jersey City, NJ 07306

What began, as an adaptive reuse of a turn-of-the-century bank building quickly became a complex architectural project involving rehabilitation, preservation and building addition. The project is located at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Wilkinson Avenue in the MLK Drive Redevelopment area of Jersey City.
The project is known as “Project Reclaim”, which signifies a process of reclaiming the glory days of a historic commercial street. The bank building was once a corner stone of a busy commercial street known as Jackson Avenue, which fell victim to decline and abandonment in the decades following the sixties. The project is designed to provide 27,000 square feet of class “A” office space for use as corporate headquarters for the Urban League of Hudson County, Inc., and a number of community based tenants. As a non-profit, social service organization, the Urban League would have spaces for its administrative offices, social service functions, support spaces for various community based programs, computer training labs, horticultural training area, community meeting rooms and other ancillary spaces.
The project addresses the issues of scale, connection and style that are inherent in an addition to an early American, Romanesque style bank building. The grandeur of a traditional banking floor is recreated by leaving a double height lobby space, and by inserting a mezzanine floor separated from the adjoining walls. The building addition creates an entrance court, which is located between the renovated bank building and new office space, along MLK Drive. The entrance court provides a formal entrance, and gives the project a monumental presence, emphasizing its open, community based function. Two vertical elements in the entrance court, reinforce the sense of entry, provide a setting for local artists to display their art work, act as skylights for lower level offices, and provide fresh air intake for the building’s air conditioning system. 
A monumental stairway connects the street level and the lower level. This stairway, together with a variety of skylights and areaways along the perimeter enhance the quality and feel of the lower level. The third floor, which rises above the original parapet of the bank building, is setback from the building line, and provides spaces for educational and community meeting facilities. 
The project respects the scale and quality of the original structure, and allows integration of new architectural elements and volumes. The addition seeks to harmonize the existing building through its scale and architectural features without attempting a literal imitation of materials or form. It attempts to establish a formal vocabulary, which complements the original structure and at the same time creates a new identity for the project.
The program called for a building designed for not only today’s technology needs but for future needs as well. The flexible arrangement of office spaces would permit a variety of configurations for tenant spaces of varying sizes. Fiber optics and high-tech electrical systems would allow voice, data and video transmissions as well as video conferencing to and from the building. The mechanical system has been designed with multiple HVAC systems per floor to provide flexibility and energy efficiency. A curved curtain wall exterior along MLK Drive with blue-tinted glass gives it a contemporary ambiance. Curved precast concrete panels above the curtain wall contain traditional engraved signage and set the building apart from adjacent structures. To coincide with the building’s exterior, the interior has been designed to be upscale. Interior finishes include granite flooring in the main lobby, with glass and steel railing along the monumental stairway, and recessed gypsum board ceiling with cove lighting. 
The project was hailed as one of “very high quality”, by the local planning board and is expected to increase an awareness about and appreciation for contextual architecture, which is rooted in its context without imitating its historical elements.
 


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