Friday, June 8, 2012

This Morning at the HPC

Five proposals from the Galvan Initiatives Foundation came before the Historic Preservation Commission this morning, and the HPC handled them with both deliberation and dispatch. Tom Swope, the foundation's executive director, suggested that they start with the easiest--102-104 Union Street--and work up to the proposal that promised to be most problematic--moving the Robert Taylor House. And that's what they did.

102-104 Union Street  Swope explained that the Galvan Foundation has "no intention to proceed on the two additional houses" that were part of the original proposal. They now simply want to fence the backyards of the two recently completed houses. After some discussion of fence height, and being assured that the fences will conform with code, the HPC accepted the application.

It will be remembered that one of these houses now not to be built, the one with the garage door in its facade, was the topic of much discussion at the public hearing about this project back in March 2011. Galvan--then Galvan Partners and represented by DeWayne Powell--fought hard to get this design approved by the HPC, arguing that the house would be more marketable with a garage. Of course, marketability is less important now that the Galvan Foundation plans to retain ownership of all its properties and rent them out.

The Hudson Arcade  Next on the agenda was the building at 449 Warren Street, which Galvan Initiatives is expanding and adapting with the intention of leasing it to Filli's Fresh Market.

The proposed design had been revised subsequent to the HPC workshop on May 17, and the application was accepted for a certificate of appropriateness with one stipulation: that the HPC make a recommendation to the Planning Commission that, out of respect for the historic character of the street, the parking area adjacent to the building be accessed from Cherry Alley instead of Warren Street.

Armory Houses The proposal for these houses is to restore the single house to the way it appears in this 1939 photograph and to "Greek Revivalize" the other house, which is actually three houses.

Swope justified the proposed design by saying that the central house was originally Greek Revival. Scott Baldinger argued that "elements of history in this house are being eliminated and covered up" by the new design and called the result "artificial looking" and a "suburban style [that] doesn't feel authentic." Alvarez pointed out that the house closer to the Armory looked like it was Greek Revival that was Victorianized, suggesting that to bring this house back to Greek Revival would make it out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. Voorhees characterized the proposal as "a brand-new building on an old foundation," and Swope agreed that this was the case. HPC member Rick Rector cautioned against "interpreting what it might have been at an older time" and recommended that they "keep it closer to what we know it as."

In the end, the HPC denied the application based on period of significance--that is, the changes proposed would make the building incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood, which is, as HPC member Tony Thompson described it, "very Victorian"--and because the application was incomplete since it lacked the measurements of proposed windows and doors.

Robert Taylor House On May 25, the HPC denied the application for a certificate of appropriateness to move the Robert Taylor House to 21 Union Street because the application was incomplete. At this morning's meeting, Swope presented a complete application--with "a site plan and lots of visuals."

After some discussion, during which Baldinger made the point that the house, in its original location, "can be a cornerstone for future development," and Roberts cited item 169-6 A (1) in the preservation law: "Properties that contribute to the character of the historic district shall be retained, with their historic features altered as little as possible," the HPC denied the application a second time, justifying the action by saying the house is integral to the historic district in which it is located and moving it would have a deleterious effect on the existing district--not to mention having a deleterious effect on the historic significance of the house.

900 Columbia Street was not discussed since, as Voorhees explained, the HPC had already granted a certificate of appropriateness to the proposal to save the building from demolition by moving it to the 200 block of Union Street and further documentation to support the move was unnecessary. Rumor has it that a Gossips post was part of that further documentation. 


  1. I found Barbara Dague's application and portion of the hearing most interesting.

  2. Thank-you as always for the great reporting.
    After that door disaster at City Hall,I am heartened to hear that it sounds like HPC,held its own.
    Very relieved those atrocious 2 blds on 1st ST and Cherry Alley will NOT become realities and
    the Tara "Sketch-up" thing was nixed over by the Armory Houses
    Also that the Grocery store front is now more architecturally accurate and compatible. And the Taylor house will remain where it belongs.Meaning also, 21 Union can be properly restored.
    Glad "Gossip's " status has been deservedly moved up,to "further documentation" and I sincerely hope that GalVan ,puts its money where it's mouth is and in the Tradition of their muse- Doris Dukes, and moves and saves 900 Columbia St, what ever the cost is to them.
    For Dukes ,it would be typical to purchase properties for 10k put in 70k worth of labor& materials ,only to end up with a property maybe worth 50k in the late 1960's & 70's.That's not moving a house.Which she also did.
    Interiors were restored as well. She did this no less than 76 times.Her goal wasn't profit in $$.Her goal was to save the structures,historically restore and maintain them.And she did.Right before urban renewal got there first.Over 50 yrs later, all of Newport and visitors still profit, by their beauty and history.GalVan, has set it's bar high.We shall see and hope they mean what they said in their Mission Statement.