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Bronx Mental Health Redevelopment


The Bronx Mental Health Redevelopment project is a much-needed redesign of an aging psychiatric campus built in the early 1950s. The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) is developing a new Bronx Psychiatric Center because its existing campus was begging to be rebuilt after reaching its full lifespan. 

The project is being managed for OMH by the Dormitory Authority State of New York (DASNY). It was once thought that renovating the old buildings was an option, but eventually it was determined that a new construction project featuring six new buildings was the best way to complete the project. 

“The project has been in the planning stages for a long time, as several iterations have evolved over the years,” DASNY Chief Project Manager Ron Gecsedi says. “The project came into focus a few years back when OMH decided to go with a new construction and consolidation approach on the southern half of the campus.”

Steps on the Path

The project initially focused on various make-ready projects that prepared the site for construction of new buildings. By 2010, demolition work had begun and site improvement work – building new ring roads, parking facilities, drainage and utilities – started in March 2011. 

The new Bronx Psychiatric Center is targeting LEED Silver certification. The campus design includes state-of-the-art facilities, more functional interconnectivity and a more compact campus. In fact, the new setup will reduce the footprint of the campus from more than 70 acres to approximately 34 acres. Not only will this create efficiencies that can lead to better provision of mental health services, it will open up land for additional development.

With completely new site characteristics and infrastructure, the project includes six major building pieces. They are: the 156-bed Adult Behavioral Health Center, the 86-bed NYC Children’s Center – Bronx Campus, a Central Services Building/Central Utilities Plant, and Residential Village, consisting of a 96-bed Transitional Living Residence, a 44-bed Horizon House/Haven House and the 48-bed studio apartments.

One of the major entities involved with the project is Jacobs, the master construction manager. Jacobs is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of technical, professional and constructions services; including facility management and construction management. “We have an array of resources in the state and around the world, so we are able to provide our clients – like DASNY – with a range of capabilities to make their projects successful,” Jacobs Project Manager Robert Bauco says. 

All told, there are two construction managers (Jacobs and The LiRo Group), multiple design teams (Code Consultants Inc., Clough, Harbour & Associates, and CT Male) and three primary architects (The Spector Group, STV and Architectural Resources) working on specialty areas of design for each of the buildings. In addition, the Project Team also includes a commissioning authority (Aramark) and inspection/testing agents (Tectonic and HAKS), among multiple prime contractors (ARC Electrical and Mechanical Contractors Corp. and J. Kokolakis Contracting Inc.) and subcontractors.

To blend in well with residential areas, the designers of the project determined that tall, square buildings were out of the question because they were too institutional. Instead, all of the buildings are from two to five stories in height and use familiar materials such as block and brick, as well as design elements like punched windows and sloped rooflines to be reminiscent of residential-style structures. 

The landscaping has been designed to create a residential feel and includes upgraded entryways and segmented parking lots that are broken up by trees and islands. Other aspects of making the campus feel more residential include the use of natural lighting. 

To create the best and most up-to-date facilities, coordination of the process has been hugely assisted by BIM and 3-D modeling tools. The project team feels that coordination and clarity helped the project during the design phase and led to the creation of the best possible construction documents to work from. The intention was to create and build facilities that could last using tried-and-true building materials. At the same time, boundaries were pushed through the selection of materials and systems that could support the LEED Silver certification. The belief is that this will ultimately create facilities that are modern, functional and reliable that also cost less to operate, reducing energy and water costs.

Working Together

Another interesting component of construction has been the team’s commitment to community interests and minority and women business enterprises (MWBE). Community participation has been encouraged and supported at every level.

Some of the project goals have been to have 20 percent minority and 10 percent women-owned businesses deeply involved in the project. According to DASNY’s Michael Clay, that 30 percent is higher than the average in the New York City metro area. 

“We are achieving that thanks to the resources we have committed to working with the community,” says Clay, director of the opportunity programs group. “It is important that we maximize opportunities for minorities and women and provide options for Bronx residents to participate as workers and become involved with the prime contractors or subcontractors.”

With the entire project estimated to wrap up by the summer of 2015, OMH and the project team can look ahead to the day when all of the patients living in the campus’ current facilities will live in a safe and healthy environment that will provide the best possible treatment. The buildings will soon be enclosed and weather-tight to allow for work to continue through the upcoming winter months. 

“These facilities will allow OMH to deliver services in an efficient manner and in an improved patient environment,” Gecsedi says.