June 26, 2013

Corner House, TV 30 Find State-of-the-Art Headquarters in Former Borough Hall

NEW AND IMPROVED: A counseling office at the new headquarters of Corner House. The agency has moved from the Valley Road School building to the lower floor of the former Borough Hall. While the square footage is less, the capabilities have increased.(Photo by Danny Hernandez)

NEW AND IMPROVED: A counseling office at the new headquarters of Corner House. The agency has moved from the Valley Road School building to the lower floor of the former Borough Hall. While the square footage is less, the capabilities have increased. (Photo by Danny Hernandez)

Among the by-products of Princeton’s consolidation last January was the merger of municipal offices from two buildings into one. The new arrangement, which moved departments located at what was formerly Borough Hall at 1 Monument Drive into 400 Witherspoon Street, freed up valuable square footage, making room for tenants sorely in need of new space.

The non-profit counseling center Corner House and the local television channel TV 30 have moved from the beleaguered Valley Road School building to 1 Monument Drive. Princeton Community Housing is expected to relocate from its offices at 245 Nassau Street sometime this year, becoming the building’s third tenant.

The television station moved in this week. Corner House, at the new location since May 14, held an Open House last week to show off it’s new digs. What was formerly Princeton Borough’s engineering, fire inspection and sewer offices on the lower floor of the building is now a sleek series of offices, meeting rooms, and treatment areas. While the footprint is actually smaller than in the previous location, it is more practical, usable, and professional.

“It’s beautiful,” said Gary De Blasio, executive director. “My staff is so excited. The space worked out perfectly and accommodates all our programs. The kids love it, the clients love it. It’s a very warm, inviting, comfortable space where I think we’ll be perceived as a more professional environment. You walk in, you know you’re in a clinical space with professional offices.”

At Valley Road School for some two decades, the staff endeavored to cope with a building in disrepair. “We tried to make it as nice as possible, but it just wasn’t conducive to making people feel good,” De Blasio said. “We had ceilings collapsing. It was very bad, a pretty sick building. The square footage was misleading because we had those giant halls. What we have now works so much better.”

The new headquarters has a sound-masking system that prevents clients and those helping them from being overheard in the hallways. There are state-of-the-art training rooms with one-way mirrors. The clinical director can supervise both rooms from his office. These replace an antiquated system in the old building that used an old video camera mounted on the wall.

“It’s a better use of space,” De Blasio said. “There are more clinical and outreach offices. Before, the coordinators had to share an office. Now, we can see more kids at the same time. There is more access to group room space, and a lot of space to do things with larger groups after five o’clock.”

The refitting of Borough Hall has turned out better than expected, according to Princeton administrator Bob Bruschi. “In my mind, not realizing how things would boil out at the end, I envisioned Corner House taking over the entire police wing,” he said. “But it’s such a great fit for them to have that whole downstairs area. Clearly, from where they came, it’s awesome. It’s long overdue. They did their penance.”

The relocation means there will be continuous activity in the parking lot of the site, which also serves the Suzanne Patterson Center. “Corner House is a pretty high-traffic organization, but at a great time, between 3:30 and 9 p.m.,” Mr. Bruschi said. “That complements what goes on at the Patterson Center behind them, which is busy from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That makes it a 14 to 15 hour a day facility.”

Corner House staff got new sofas and loveseats as part of the move. All of the other furniture was repurposed from the former Borough police department upstairs as well as other areas of the building. “The public works department did all of the painting,” Mr. De Blasio said. “We kept everything as economical as possible.”

KSS Architects assisted in the refitting process. While the basic outline of the walls on the lower floor stayed the same, there was some construction involved. “It’s funny, because this was the least costly model we had talked about, and it’s the most effective,” Mr. Bruschi said.

The non-profit Corner House provides counseling for young adults, adolescents, and their families on substance abuse and other issues. The organization was established in 1972 and was originally housed at Henry and Witherspoon streets before moving to the Valley Road School building at 369 Witherspoon Street.