When justifying the appropriateness of the unusually high foundation already built at 215 Union Street, Clements did not reference 211 Union Street but rather the Queen Anne house to the east and the house of uncertain vintage to the west.
The high foundation, atypical of the Federal style house they seem to be trying to replicate at 215 Union Street, is also offered as the reason why the house must set back farther than the other houses on that part of Union Street. If the house were not set back five feet, breaking the street wall, the steps required to get to the entrance would have to encroach on the sidewalk.
The placement of the house on the lot was the subject of two comments from the audience during the public hearing. Helen Arrott, who asked to see the site plan, was concerned if anything else could be built on either side. Out of character with most of the rest of the block, the house will sit in the middle of three lots, leaving a yard about half the size of a buildable lot on either side.
During the public hearing, Gossips asked if the HPC had seen a site plan in May 2012, when a certificate of appropriateness had been granted to move 900 Columbia Street intact to this site in a historic district. At the time, the HPC requested a site plan, but there is no record that one was received or that the certificate of appropriateness applied to the site plan. Although HPC chair Rick Rector asserted "we have a site plan," HPC member David Voorhees said he did not recall seeing one in May 2012, and Rector seemed to acknowledge that the site plan now in hand had not been received when the proposal to move the building intact into a historic district had been granted a certificate of appropriateness.
The discussion on Friday of code requirements and setbacks made it clear that the footnote appended to the Schedule of Bulk and Area Regulations for Residential Districts is inadequate to protect the historic character of neighborhoods. Galvan attorney Joe Catalano was quick to point out that only the Planning Board can approve setbacks that conform with the prevailing setbacks, and it is something that they may do but don't have to.
In the regular HPC meeting that followed the public hearing, HPC architect member Jack Alvarez asked for evidence that the changes the commission had requested to the cornice on the gable ends of the roof would be made. He was told that the changes would appear on the new drawings, which were expected to be ready for the HPC's first meeting in February.
Prior to calling for a vote on the project, Rector reiterated that the building, even though it will use salvaged materials from 900 Columbia Street and was originally described as the "reassembling" of that building, was a new building. He then read from design guidelines for new construction that he had found online, which may have been this document published by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. It identifies four approaches to new construction in a historic setting: (1) literal replication; (2) invention within the same or a related style; (3) abstract reference; (4) intentional opposition. Though many people would be inclined to call what is proposed for 215 Union Street invention within a style if not literal replication, Rector chose to call it abstract reference. According to the Preservation Alliance publication, which may or may not be the document Rector was quoting, abstract reference "seeks to make reference to the historic setting while consciously avoiding literal resemblance or working in a historic style. This approach seeks to balance differentiation and compatibility, but with the balance tipped toward the former. This is a difficult strategy to execute it requires an artistry and skill that are not often available."
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