A Shuttered School Is Repurposed into a Youth Center that Helps Young Adults Reach Their Full Potential

2nd Place, Adaptive Reuse

When unsheltered students age out of the foster care system or out of the child welfare system altogether, they are left with limited public and private resources. Their remaining services are often only available for restricted hours of the day, leaving many without a place to go after 8 p.m. With an estimated 4,000 students in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) considered homeless, Jorge Baldor, founder of After8toEducate, saw the need for a place where unsheltered students and youth could access services, educational support and shelter. In response, the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center was established as the first all-encompassing three-pillar program to support unsheltered DISD high-school students and to support the immediate needs of other homeless young adults, ages 14 to 21.

PHOTOS: Charles Davis Smith LLC; BEFORE PHOTOS: LRK

The project seeks to continue its namesake’s legacy of overcoming adversity and reaching one’s full potential. Fannie Chase Harris, the daughter of a slave and the master’s son, was born on a plantation in Harris County, Georgia. Once freed, Fannie and her adopted aunt moved to Columbus, Ga. After finishing at a Quaker public school, she attended Clayton Normal School, which prepared her for teaching. She came to Texas and began her career as a teacher, first in Corsicana and then Dallas, where she became one of the first three teachers at Dallas High School for African American children. In 1951, a Dallas Independent School was named in her honor. Fannie C. Harris Elementary School closed its doors in 2013 after serving as the Dallas ISD administration building for some time. It sat vacant for five years before community stakeholders identified it as the location for the new youth center.

The Fannie C. Harris Youth Center offers a “drop-in” center with access to meals, showers, a computer lab, laundry and counselors who provide mentorship, as well as medical and mental health referrals as needed. The space, graced by a mural designed by Cuban-born Dallas artist Rolando Diaz, has a modern, comfortable feel with plenty of communal space for dining, working on homework, collaborating or relaxing.

“Fun, artful, excellent mission. I like how they kept the grittiness of the original structure. Nice transparency and connected spaces.”

Brett Baba, co-founder, Graham Baba Architects, Metamorphosis Awards Judge

The 20,000-square-foot residential side features a 26-bed wing for emergencies, nearly doubling the existing Emergency Youth Center’s capacity, and nine beds to support the Transitional Living Program. Residential areas also include collaboration space, a library, podcast and recording studio, full-service kitchen and dining area, individual and family counseling rooms, and offices for the directors and counselors.

The Fannie C. Harris Youth Center offers a solution to allow unsheltered high-school students to develop academically, emotionally, and socially to ultimately live healthy and productive lives.

Retrofit Team

DEVELOPER: After8ToEducate

METAMORPHOSIS AWARD WINNER and ARCHITECT: LRK

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: RUDICK Construction Group and Sky Contracting, (469) 309-1892

MEP ENGINEER: Sutton Eldridge Engineering LLC

Materials

STEEL SIDING: Corten Weathering Steel, A606, from Metaltech Global

WOOD SIDING AND SLATS: Western Red Cedar

PAINT: Sherwin-Williams


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