Project DescriptionThe NAMCO Block is a four story, brick apartment block, composed of nine identical attached apartment buildings originally containing 72 apartments. Constructed in 1920-22, the NAMCO Block was designed as worker housing for the nearby NAMCO manufacturing company in Windsor, Vermont. The building was considered “ahead of its time” designed to accommodate worker’s families in lieu of the typical men’s shift housing. Even with its rich history, public perception plummeted over time. Poor building management and increased crime made the building nearly uninhabitable to its residents and surrounding community. In 2005, town officials compiled comprehensive records on the apartment complex; the Block’s level of violent and drug-related crime was double, and in some cases triple, those of the rest of the town. The 72 apartments, which held 10% of Windsor’s population, accounted for 36% of the town’s police calls for domestic violence, 35% of calls for drug activity, 32% of noise disturbances, 23% of child welfare calls, and 20% of reported assaults.
In 2007 new owners wanted to renovate and revitalize the NAMCO Block and adjacent neighborhood. The new owners envisioned a safe, healthy, mixed income “community within a community”. The project requirements included reducing the apartment density from 72 to 58, to expand & improve the apartment layouts and to enrich the overall quality of life for tenants. The rental structure was to be changed from low-income to mixed-income. Each apartment was to be accessible in a non-obtrusive way. The project also required repairing and restoring as much of the existing historic fabric as budget and physical constraints would allow and to provide excellent indoor air quality while reducing the current energy usage by 60-70%.
The renovations and design included larger, completely reconfigured 1, 2 & 3 bedroom apartments in five new apartment layouts. It incorporated additional community space on each floor and added security measures at the front and rear entrances. A complete restoration of the rich exterior details included re-pointing of the brick façade and replacement of 684 windows. The structurally unsafe existing wooden rear stairways was removed and replaced with a new steel walkway system and elevator that connects the entire building, creating accessibility without intrusion. All kitchens open to the common south-facing exterior walkway to encourage tenant interaction. The use of durable and sustainable formaldehyde free materials in the units and all common areas created a safe and pleasant environment for families and the surrounding community. The new site plan included children’s play area, two small pocket parks and local vegetation. Oil Consumption was reduced from 61,000 gallons of oil per year before construction to 19,000 gallons after renovation was complete.
Renovations were completed in December 2009 and when asked about the project and any effect it has had on the town, Police Chief Soares stated "my experience with the apartment block has been significantly different. The current property managers and staff appear to be focused on maintaining a quality of life for each tenant; the Windsor Police Department shares a collaborative effort with property managers regarding this "community within a community". It is likely to take some time for long time Windsor Residents who know of "The Block's" reputation to be convinced that the changes readily apparent on the outside of the building carry through to the inside, but from my prospective, they absolutely do!"