ReConnect Cafe is the first storefront location for Vernon Avenue Project, an innovative non-profit group seeking to create “an entry level economy for disconnected youth looking to change the course of their lives”. The organization’s social entrepreneurial mission aims to provide employment opportunities that “leads to renewed engagement in education, training and commitment to community leadership and service”.
The design of the cafe takes inspiration from the residential stoops lining the surrounding streets as active spaces of community interaction. The notion of the storefront interior as a “new street” in Brooklyn gave rise to the stepped design as not only a marker of the organization’s mission but as a design solution. Given the need to preserve existing conditions, for budgetary reasons, and limited space, the steps provide a means to stack multiple uses, such as storage, seating and product display around the perimeter of the narrow space while seamlessly covering and providing ventilation for existing radiators near the front of the store.
The project asks one of several long term questions: how can small scale, relatively affordable yet highly impactful design interventions augment, amplify or make more widely legible existing community led efforts? How do such projects begin to catalyze further action?
RECONNECT CAFE 139 Tompkins Avenue, Brooklyn NY
Architectural Design: Jeffrey Sun Chen, Assoc AIA, LEED
Special Thanks to:
Taeya Konishi-Schogel, Assoc AIA,
Na Young Shim, Assoc AIA
Ada Ng, Design for America/Cornell University
Jonathan Held, AIA
Ernie Spears, St. Nicks Alliance
Marco Designs LLC