CAFÉ 524 is an adaptive re-use project designed with and for the neighborhood of Homewood. Through a series of community meetings in the fall of 2009, residents indicated a need for a “third place”. In his book, The Great Good Place, Sociologist Ray Oldenburg describes the shuffle between the “first place” of the home and the “second place” of employment. He noted that a lack of “third place” for informal social activity degrades the quality and vitality of urban life. Another aspiration voiced during the meetings was for the building to approach net-zero energy consumption. Sustainable energy systems will eventually pay for themselves with the money saved in the everyday operation of the building.
During the spring and summer of 2010, eleven students and UDBS Director John Folan worked on CAFÉ 524 from initial concept through construction documents. The initial design was two-stories, featuring the café on the first floor and a business center on the second level, but the footprint was later reduced to focus on the community oriented café. At each interval of the process, a committee of residents, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) members, and stakeholders ensured that the priorities of the community were upheld. As the project evolved, the southern window wall enclosure emerged as the component to be built by the UDBS students. Drawing, prototyping, and pre-fabrication took place over the summer of 2010 in an off-site warehouse.
The process of prioritizing project elements is currently underway. The UDBS appreciates the support of the URA, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and Pittsburgh Foundation. These partnerships have been invaluable in designing a collaborative and vital community space with the capacity to spark further development. Partnerships with non-profits, such as the Homewood Children’s Village, Operation Better Block, and the Community Stewards Committed to Revitalization of the Inner City, have developed CAFÉ 524 into a social place, demonstration project, and an example of economic and neighborhood development.