Shore Bet in Adaptable, Accessible and Barrier-Free Design
The important thing for people to understand is the concept
of universal design is about ability, not disability, noted Adrienne
C. Hamilton, Director of Construction with the Casino Reinvestment Development
Authority (CRDA) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Richard Duncan, Director
of Training for The Center for Universal Design, College of Design at
North Carolina State University adds, Universal design is the design
of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest
extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Driving down North Carolina Avenue, it is difficult to miss
the newly constructed 3,500 square foot home with its two-story, shingle-style
wood frame construction, reminiscent of early homes on the northeastern
shore. This magnificent house boasts a prominent brick chimney rising
above the steep pitched rooftop and is crowned with eyebrow dormers, detailed
eaves and elegant crown moldings. Its many windows create a spirit of
invitation and the verandah, which encompasses one end of the house, overlooks
the grounds with its array of shade trees, evergreens and flowers.
The pristine home strikes awe in travelers who first enter Atlantic Citys
Atlantic Heights District. Upon entrance to the property, the Healing
Garden immediately invokes a harmonious juxtaposition with beauty and
invitation to its housing counterpart. At first glance, no one would guess
that this house was constructed as a universal design model. Built by
CRDA, in partnership with the AARP (formerly the American Association
for Retired Persons), and The Center for Universal Design, College of
Design at North Carolina State University, the Universal Design Demonstration
Home was created to showcase a safe, user-friendly design for people of
all ages and abilities.
In the Healing Garden, guests meander along pathways lined with ornamental
grasses, shrubs, and flowering plants, observing their contrasting textures
and colors. The main path leads its visitor behind a set of decorative
gates to the patio and its raised planters. Behind the sitting wall lies
an enclosed space large enough for a group to enjoy a delicious cookout
from the outdoor grill. Across the lawn from the patio, plans include
construction of a stage for periodic outdoor presentations and performances.
For those guests who feel inclined, gliders will be available where they
may rest their legs and view the stunning display of blossoming perennial
flowerbeds. Opposite the gliders, chaise lounges will give an opportunity
to relax, read a book or sleep in the warm sun.
In the center of the garden, a pavilion presents guests with an all-weather
retreat. The enclosure offers shelter from rain or other inclement weather.
On warm days with the windows opened, the aroma of flowers from surrounding
perennial beds drift aimlessly and effortlessly to permeate the pavilion.
The beautifully manicured butterfly gardens offer guests the hope of glimpsing
a Monarch butterfly in flight.
Children and adults are encouraged to explore a secondary seashell pathway
which weaves through the garden. Following completion of construction,
those with a careful eye will discover the many small, sculptured animals
nestled among the rich foliage which beautifully lines the path. The garden
includes a project area devoted to gardening and plant related projects
such as flower arrangements, wreath making, and pot planting. Raised planters
facilitate the inclusion of wheelchair users in the garden activities.
The interior of the house is a marvel to behold. Smooth, stepless entryways
for ease in accessibility lead guests into a home setting with spacious
hallways. Initially, there are slight nuances that draw ones attention
to the fact that this home is interwoven with concepts of universal design.
Lever handled doors blend into the ambiance and add charm to the homes
design; widened doorways and hallway entries lend to the grandness of
It is not until guests enter the kitchen, where universal design features
including workspaces with lowered countertops, specialized cabinets and
smartly placed appliances are more pronounced. Against a color-scheme
of beige, taupe and white presented on the cabinetry, softly-patterned
wall coverings, basket-woven backsplash and floor tiles, burgundy window
treatments, seat cushions, island countertop and lamp shades add a playful
Hidden universal design applications are found in the built-in wall oven
with one pullout rack at conventional countertop height. The adaptable
roll-out base cabinet next to the wall oven affords an open-sitting workspace.
Open knee space under the kitchen sink allows for a seated workspace and
is achieved by fitting the base cabinets with adaptable doors, rolling
carts and removable shelving. A motorized adjustable counter provides
workspace for a tall person, children or seated users at its lowest height.
A wet bar located within the kitchen area features an under-the-counter
ice maker, refrigerator, and a slender wine rack that are concealed behind
maple doors with recessed and beaded detailing and a subtly distressed
vintage white finish. Other features in the Universal Design Demonstration
Home include curbless showers, state-of-the-art security, a home elevator
and chair lift, and a communication system throughout the house.
We wanted to create a demonstration project that will show what
universal design is. Because the home is available for individually scheduled
guided tours, it will let people everywhere, not just in Atlantic City,
know what its about and what the advantages of universal design
are. It is for everyonenot just older people, but for everyone,
no matter age or ability, adds Hamilton.
The Universal Design Demonstration Home is one of three initiatives set
forth by the CRDAs Universal Design Homes Project. Universal Homes
for Atlantic City and the Universal Home Modification Program are the
remaining ambitious initiatives of the project. The creation of the Universal
Design Demonstration Home was built to showcase affordable new construction
and practical universal design features and products, which may be incorporated
into all new construction and in-home renovation projects.
Universal Homes for Atlantic City is a program to include
universal design concepts in new housing units and neighborhoods that
are being developed by the CRDA and other private or public contractors.
(CRDA is also reviewing current projects in planning and development and
making modifications to feature universal design concepts where possible.)
This initiative teaches builders not to wait until something happens but
to design smart from the origination. If they make the effort to proactively
plan ahead, the residents stand to benefit throughout their lives. It
is not difficult to apply universal design features to a new house if
you plan ahead. Its when you go back that its difficult because
you dont have, for instance, the blocking for grab bars where you
need them. Its so easy to put blocking in when youre building.
Its so easy to put the wider doors in; its not going to cost
more than $3 to $4 more per door. These are the things that are worthwhile
to think about because they are so simple to incorporate when youre
building but cause a headache when you have to go back and rip things
out, Hamilton points out.
When the CRDA decides to build housing in a certain neighborhood,
it acquires the property through voluntary sales from owners or it has
the power of eminent domain. CRDA uses that power to acquire land so that
it can assemble larger parcels to create new neighborhoods, Hamilton
said. In many cases, when the CRDA acquires existing homes, it offers
the owners an opportunity to acquire an exchange home. A number of people
have taken advantage of this offer and in many cases, they have moved
out of row houses or single-family houses and moved into brand new homes.
By state statute, one and one quarter percent of casino revenues is made
available to the CRDA for projects in Atlantic City and the state of New
Jersey. The Authority uses these dedicated casino investment funds and
other revenues to execute development plans that contribute to urban revitalization,
balanced community development, economic stabilization, and retail and
entertainment opportunities in Atlantic City and throughout the state.
Since 1984, the CRDA has provided the city with $225 million in new housing
developments and the creation of 1,842 housing unitsincreasing Atlantic
Citys housing stock by 12 percent.
One of the most interesting developments pertains to the Washington Square
area which features the unique designs originated by Frank Lloyd Wright
for his American System-Built Housing, updated for contemporary living
by Taliesin Architects. These single family homes were financed through
gaming industry revenue derived from Donald Trumps Taj Mahal and
other casino holdings. The Trump organization is excited to be part
of the renaissance of Atlantic City. These funds have had a great impact
of the local community and we look forward to the citys continued
growth, states Mark Brown, President and CEO of Trump Casinos and
The cost for development was $2 million. Like many of their other
projects already in production, CRDA has incorporated universal design
concepts in the Washington Square project scheduled for completion in
The effort is to rebuild Atlantic City... to revitalize Atlantic
City. Private, for-profit developers have not found it profitable to come
into the city and build just now. I think thats going to change
in part because of the revitalization that has already taken place and
because of the construction of new casinos in the city, noted Hamilton.
I think its becoming clear Atlantic City is a desirable place
to be. There are some wonderful, beautiful, new neighborhoods.
Homes are available to purchase through standard purchasing channels and
practices. CRDA offers subsidies to home buyers and there are no set formulas
to apply and qualify for these subsidies. CRDA is focused on making
affordable housing available to the people who live in Atlantic City,
Hamilton stated. Builders also need to know about the concept of
universal design. Until recently, this was something that builders really
didnt want to know about. People had a hard time finding builders
who understand about making a home accessible without making it take on
an institutional type of look.
CONTINUED IN ABILITY MAGAZINE...... subscribe!
by Jayne L. Archuleta
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