The Weeksville Heritage Center is a cutting-edge, sustainable building that serves as a functional and aesthetic gateway between urban, modern-day Brooklyn and a faithfully restored portion of the 19th century Weeksville African-American settlement. Weeksville, once a thriving African American community and an important part of New York City history and the larger abolitionist movement, was rediscovered in the 1960s. After more than 40 years of grass-roots lobbying, the site now includes four restored homes, gardens, and a heritage center that provides education, community outreach and special events, and serves as an important community hub in its Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
The Heritage Center includes exhibit space, classrooms and lecture space, a performance hall, a library and resource center, space for a growing collection of archives and historic artifacts, and administrative office space. The 19,000-square-foot building was designed to be highly sustainable and to meet criteria for a LEED 2.1 Gold rating.
Effective scheduling was critical to ensuring that work progressed without impeding safe public access to the site. One of the major challenges of the Weeksville project was maintaining an open, operating site during construction, while paying close attention to the safety of hundreds of school children who still visited the historic site weekly. When construction of the project began, the Weeksville Heritage Center administration already had contracted with local schools for visits to the four restored historic homes on the property. Since the revenue from these tours helped finance the operational budget for Weeksville, these tours needed to continue safely and unabated.
Another major challenge was Weeksville’s need to continue its various community activities, such as the Farmer’s Market and outdoor summer festivities, which also contributed to its operating revenue.
In addition, the team had to adhere to a strict landscaping plan, which incorporated specific plants and specific planting seasons and precluded both foot and vehicular traffic at various locations throughout the site at varying times.
To safely maintain vital school tours at Weeksville, the Hill CM team used multiple--yet basic--CM tools. After obtaining all school tour schedules, the CM team met with each of the four primary trades on the project—the general contractor, mechanical contractor, electrical contractor and plumbing contractor—about the importance of the tours to Weeksville’s bottom line.
The Hill team also facilitated meetings with Weeksville staff and each trade individually, so they could hear—in personal and persuasive detail—Weeksville’s unique needs and mission. Weeksville staff also attended project team meetings, to keep communication timely and open and address sensitive issues as they arose. Such communication was invaluable during the installation of geothermal wells and underground utilities, and during site and landscaping work—each of which required careful scheduling so that equipment and materials delivery, and intensive on-site work, didn’t impede public access.
Also, to keep materials delivery and installation on track, the CM team convinced the client to let the architect approve shop drawings in the field, along with mock-ups in progress. This tactic allowed for expedited shop drawing approval and installation, which saved thousands of dollars in potential change orders and helped to maintain the project schedule.
Weeksville considered Hill a partner in making sure that our functional needs were achieved and in helping us determine resolutions to issues which crop up in the normal course of events on any project of this sort. The Hill team was always accessible and served as a truly helpful bridge between Weeksville and all of the construction trades. They often interpreted our questions in order to get to the heart of our concerns. This was truly important to us. And, they always kept us in the loop. Coordination meetings were very well run and time efficient…Thank you for your time, effort and guidance.
Pamela E. Green
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (2001-2013)
Weeksville Heritage Center