Project spotlight – Cedarhurst School elevator replacement

May 26, 2021

Often, little projects can be big in scope and impact. Replacing an elevator at the Cedarhurst School took several years. The project involved using a crane, having limited work access due to class schedules, and arranging for the school’s physically disabled students to find alternative learning arrangements.

Cedarhurst SchoolCedarhurst School on Prospect Street

is a private therapeutic junior and senior high school serving grades 6 – 12 and operated by Yale University. It offers a structured and supportive learning environment for students identified as ED (emotional disturbance) and OHI (other health impaired). The school is located at 871 Prospect Street, Hamden, CT, in what was formally an eight-bedroom, Tudor-style mansion built in 1919 for John Day Jackson, his wife Rose, and their eight children. John was a graduate of the Yale Class of 1890 and the chairman of the Yale Daily News. He was a newspaper reporter and correspondent before he became the owner, editor, and publisher of the New Haven Register in 1895.

It was during a separate project in the school’s basement, which included adding three new classrooms, that an inspector deemed the elevator improperly registered, and locked it. This was the only elevator in the building, and it was used by the school’s physically-disabled students. When it was shut down, it caused great hardship for the students and the school. It was not known at the time that the elevator needed to be replaced, which would take four years.

Much of the initial project planning time was spent looking at different design aspects. The elevator was small, with only a three-foot opening. The project and design team looked into building a new elevator shaft by adding an addition to the building, but the floors didn’t line up, making that impossible. The next idea was to build the shaft wider and deeper, but that was found to be intensely complicated and extremely expensive. Finally, an elevator consultant was hired to design a new elevator within the existing shaft that was 3’ 4” deep by 3’ 6” wide by 6’ 8” high. Drawings were done of the final design, which then had to be approved by both the state and city.

Once through the often-sluggish approval process, the team hired Petra Construction to manage the sub-contractors. Hartford Elevator started work in June 2020. They removed the old elevator infrastructure and completely replaced it. Also, the elevator shrank in size one inch all around because of additional sheetrock encircling the new shaft. Lastly, new electrical wiring, exhaust fan, and fire alarm devices were added.

During construction, the contractor had limited access to the space because school was in session and COVID-19 restrictions were in place. This meant Petra Construction had to work during the day on Wednesdays and Saturdays and during evenings the other days. Additional issues and delays included a nation-wide manufacturing shutdown, and hiring a crane-operator to replace the exhaust fan that now sits securely atop the new elevator shaft. Construction was completed on May 19, 2021, and the elevator was approved for operation soon after.

“While this was a small project comparatively, it had many challenges. We all knew how important it was to get the elevator built and running for the school and its students. Their physically-disabled students had to find other schools during the closure and upgrade. Knowing that made it even more urgent to get the elevator up and operating. It’s very satisfying when you complete a project and have happy customers,” says Chelsea Monda, Yale Facilities Project Manager.

Big thanks to:

  • Matthew LeBarron, Associate Director for Med/West Project Team
  • Chelsea Monda, Project Manager
  • Eric Overland, Project Planner
  • Brewster Architects
  • Petra Construction

Special thank you to Michael Hoge and Betsy Donovan of the Cedarhurst School.