A Colorado County Adaptive Reuse Reflects the Land’s Orchard Heritage

A century ago, the site of the Adams County Human Services Center in Westminster, Colo., was filled with apple orchards where nearby Denver families would gather sustenance during the fall harvest. True to these roots, the human services department now helps to nurture individuals and families from one new center.

The project consolidates several county services into a repurposed 3-story, 315,000-square-foot former telephone equipment manufacturing facility.
The project consolidates several county services into a repurposed 3-story, 315,000-square-foot former telephone equipment manufacturing facility.

“We drew from an overall concept of ‘Orchards to Innovation’ and invested a lot of time upfront to dig into what the concept meant for the project and Adams County,” explains Amy Hoffman, principal of DLR Group’s Denver office. “The new center is a resource and a beacon for the entire community, and the concept resonated with all of us, which made decision-making flow seamlessly.”

Cross Pollination

Adams County’s Human Services, Head Start, Child and Family Center, and the Workforce and Business Services divisions had been housed in separate spaces. The project consolidated these services into a repurposed 3-story, 315,000-square-foot former telephone equipment manufacturing facility.

In addition to the four main divisions and several smaller programs, Adams County invited 17 non-profit community partners to co-locate a few of their direct-service staff within the new center. Brian P. Kenna, deputy director of Adams County’s Human Services Department, says the consolidation of department operations was long overdue.

“It was a privilege to design a facility that served our purposes and the needs of our customers from the start,” Kenna asserts. “By having our county’s programs and community support programs in one place, we provide a direct conduit to our citizens to get the help they need. The co-location also connects service providers to each other more directly.”

Organic Approach

Because the building floorplates were so large, the team sought ways to disrupt the institutional feel of the space. The orchard theme provided the answer.

The floorplans became branches with hallways that incorporate angles, “neighborhoods” and spaces of visual interest.

The massive L-shaped structure posed a conundrum in terms of creating a clearly defined public entrance, so DLR Group added a 4,000-square-foot atrium at the inside corner of the “L.”

On the exterior of the welcoming entry, designers added a vertical concrete wall as a beacon to arriving visitors. In keeping with the orchard theme, a pattern of an apple crate was cast into the formworks for the concrete wall. “The apple crate theme is reflected inside the breakrooms, too,” notes Terri Ammon, project architect at DLR Group’s Colorado Springs, Colo., office. “Walls painted in different apple colors peek through reclaimed wood boards spaced out reminiscent of a crate. It’s a subtle connection that provides a feeling of cohesiveness.”

Within Reach

In addition to an information desk with a greeter and self-service kiosks, differently colored graphics identify each division.
In addition to an information desk with a greeter and self-service kiosks, differently colored graphics identify each division.

A welcoming customer experience and ease of use was paramount in the center’s programming. Like a mall, all the services options are readily available on the main level and the atrium serves as the central hub for “one-stop shopping.”

“Traditionally, human services’ delivery is separated with divisions like workforce development in one location and food assistance in another,” Kenna says. “This [building] is an innovative approach because they aren’t just housed in one location, they’re all on one level for easy access, and we can direct customers to all the services they might not even know were available.”

In addition to an information desk with a greeter and self-service kiosks, differently colored graphics identify each division. “Colored graphics offer more personable wayfinding,” Ammon says. “It’s easier for people to remember colors than directions and it makes them feel like they are headed in the right direction.”

While customer-facing branches reside on the main level, the remaining divisions’ staff work on other floors. The building includes a business center for job fairs and community events, as well as a suite that serves the non-profit community partners.

While customer-facing branches reside on the main level, the remaining divisions’ staff work on other floors. The building includes a business center for job fairs and community events, as well as a suite that serves the non-profit community partners.

Photos: ED LACASSE

About the Author

KJ Fields
KJ Fields writes about design, sustainability and health from Portland, Ore.

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