Anyone who’s lived in an mid-rise knows that apartment units grouped together may technically be a neighborhood. But a building with a real sense of community requires a whole lot more.
Our team has always strived to create places that residents are proud to call
home. The redesign of the historic former St Joseph’s Orphanage – now Liberty House – in Burlington, VT, gave us an opportunity to work on a very special building, and its many challenges.
After rounds and rounds of reviews, the final decision on design resulted in a whole that seems so much greater than its parts. Namely, a building with generous common spaces that support smaller individual living units is laying the foundation for creating a real sense of community.
From the outset, the framework of the historic building lent itself to smaller individual units (ranging in size from 280 sq. ft. – 900 sq. ft.) which prompted us to create truly amazing common spaces and comforts to complement the smaller private space of each unit. The result is an array of amenities that enrich the experience of living at Liberty House and afford residents ample opportunity to interact as a community.
Sense of Arrival
As a resident or visitor, you are welcomed by a rich, boutique-hotel style lobby! Warm red stone walls and old cast iron columns, remnants of the former St Joseph’s Orphanage, frame an inviting lobby area. Embellished with a gas fireplace, comfy chairs and sofas, standard and taller “work” desks and free high-speed Wi-Fi, it’s an impressive entryway. We designed a space that we ourselves want to linger in, to enjoy every time we pass through.
The historic entrance, circa 1882, faces North Avenue and is visible to the general public. A newly replicated exterior spiral staircase leads to a smaller, more intimate lobby space with its own comfy couch and period chairs to welcome you back home.
A third ground-level entrance caters to bicycles and cyclists. It opens to a designated area where you can rinse the mud off your bike or use the bike repair station, equipped with tools, before storing your bike in a secure room lined with bike racks.
Far and away, the most spectacular common area at Liberty House is the 5th floor Sunset Veranda. We wanted to create a space where residents can relax and enjoy panoramic westerly views. A brilliant inspiration on the part of our 21st century architects who reimagined the building as an exciting place to live, the Sunset Veranda was carved out of the roof of the westerly wing and offers sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains beyond, under an expansive sky.
An exterior landscaped patio area is replete with gas grills, picnic tables with umbrellas. A gas firepit surrounded by the requisite Adirondack chairs, rounds out the outdoor experience at Liberty House.
Other interior amenities are designed to make your life easier at Liberty House. A 24 hour access fitness room includes free weights and various aerobic machines to support a healthy and active lifestyle. Instead of fighting the crowds at your gym, you have the option of exercising on your own busy schedule. A craft room is conveniently located on the ground floor, where you can finally complete those messy projects that you don’t want to do in your apartment. A professionally-designed pet wash room is next to the main entrance, where you can rinse or wash your pet after a muddy day on the trail. You and your dog may also make friends with other residents and their dogs in the building’s off-leash dog park. Finally, free washers and dryers are available to you 24/7 in the ground floor laundry room.
Ever tried living without a car or a second car? Liberty House has partnered with CATMA, a local transportation management association, to encourage other transportation options, including reduced-rate bus passes for local and commuter routes. You can also join CATMA directly and receive additional incentives and prizes for taking alternate modes of transportation. For those occasional times when you might need a car or 2nd car, Liberty House offers a one-year free membership to CarShare VT and a car named “Rufus” is located right on site. Eventually, there will be a sign-up board that lets you to connect to your neighbors for carpooling to the local grocery store or big box retailers in adjacent towns. Maybe you will discover carpooling to work with your new neighbors, or going to the same movie.
New friendships and “community” have been given a nudge through our programming at Liberty House. Current residents at Liberty House have already organized a Friday night gathering/potluck dinner in the patio area. Already, this is so much more than your typical Burlington apartment.
Community in the Making
It has been a joy for us to conceive, design and now operate Liberty House. Even though Liberty House presented many early challenges, we believe our team has risen to the occasion. Our goal now is to replicate the best aspects of Liberty House, as we plan the many new buildings to follow at Cambrian Rise.