Meriden Building for Homeless Youth Designed to Inspire Hope

MERIDEN — Carolina Hernandez had something special in mind when she envisioned WYSH House on Colony Street. 

Hernandez, a studio designer with QA+M Architecture of Farmington, wanted a building with color and light for the homeless young adults who would make it their home.

“I wanted to create a building that was light and airy to encourage and inspire these young people to be hopeful about their future,” Hernandez said. “The building is located in a historic district. I knew the building was not going to fit within the historical context of the neighborhood. But because I wanted to create it for youth, I created it with color and lines to inspire creativity.”

The 12-unit apartment building, which sits on the site of the former Women and Families Center Annex, will be for those between the ages of 18 and 24 at the time of entry. WYSH stands for Women and Families Center Youth Supportive Housing. ‘

The project cost $4,8 million, paid through a combination of state and private funding. Construction is winding down. with punch list items to be completed in late November. Tenant screenings from the Coordinated Access Network has begun, said Wayne Valaitis, chief executive officer of the Women and Families Center.  

Hernandez knew the city had a significant Hispanic population, and she drew upon her upbringing in Ecuador to design Wysh House.

“This was a first,” Hernandez said. “It was challenging and I was excited and I’m very happy about the way it came out and within a budget. The fact that we were able to keep the design and colors was a big accomplishment. It’s not something we’re used to seeing in Connecticut.”

 Thomas Arcari, a partner with QA+M Architecture, said one of the challenges was setting the rear wall to align with other buildings on Colony Street. 

“It’s a strong complement to the revitalization that has been going on in the city for ten years,” Arcari said. “Clearly, when you talk about neighborhood revitalization, it has to start somewhere. We wanted our building to set the precedent, be an anchor that other projects can emulate in the future.”

In addition to the colorful exterior, the 10,000 square-foot building has gathering places outside and inside —  meeting rooms, a research center and lobbies. 

Arcari and Hernandez said general contractor Montagno Construction kept the project within budget.

Valaitis said staff is anxious to see the apartments filled. He expects to have leases signed by Dec. 1. 

 “We want the residents to feel valued and lucky to be living in a nice new home,” Valaitis said. “We wanted to provide something that had a first-class look to it.”

The project is one of three new construction projects downtown that address the needs of central Connecticut’s homeless or at-risk of being homeless population. A new apartment building at 11 Crown St. has 17 units set aside for qualified homeless individuals and families. Hanover Place on Hanover Street is nearing completion on nine units for homeless veterans. 

[email protected]: @Cconnbiz