The HPC started out by approving the certificates of appropriateness for a new sign for 320 Warren Street (formerly Kennedy Fried Chicken) and for a fence around the side yard at 39 South Fifth Street.
On December 13, the HPC approved a certificate of appropriateness for a store front for 117 Warren Street with the exception of the doors. The doors proposed were molded fiberglass, and the HPC, after encouraging the applicant to use real wood doors, wanted to see an actual sample of the fiberglass faux mahogany doors being proposed.
On Friday, December 27, the applicant returned with a new proposal for the doors. It was discovered that a pair of 30-inch doors would not be ADA (American with Disabilities Act of 1990) compliant unless a mechanism were installed that would open both doors simultaneously. The new proposal, which replaced the molded fiberglass doors with doors custom built from genuine mahogany, substituted a single 36-inch door with a 24-inch sidelight for the double doors originally proposed, losing in the process some of the symmetry of the design.
Although HPC member Tony Thompson expressed concern about the lack of symmetry in the proposed new design for the doors, in the end, the HPC voted unanimously to approve the design change and to modify the certificate of appropriateness to reflect the change.
Another returning project was the roof at 105 Warren Street. The owners had originally wanted to replace the metal roof with a synthetic slate roof, but HPC members held that slate was not a roofing material that was authentic to the house and urged the applicant to consider a shake roof (a roof that still exists under the current metal roof) or a metal roof.
|Courtesy Rural Intelligence
The next project taken up by the HPC was 12 Willard Place. It had been slotted third on the agenda, but because the HPC is still a member short since Scott Baldinger's resignation at the end of August, architect member Jack Alvarez rarely makes the journey from Albany for the second (essentially pro forma) meeting, Thompson had to recuse himself (it was his project), and Peggy Polenberg arrived late (as she often does), it had to be postponed until Polenberg got there to make a quorum.
Before the HPC voted to approve the language of the certificate of appropriateness for 12 Willard Place, Ellen Thurston, who lives in the carriage house behind 335 Allen Street, two lots away from the site of 12 Willard Place, indicated that she had some questions about the process. HPC chair Rick Rector responded, "We've already made a decision. We've already approved it." Rector further advised Thurston, "This meeting is not the time for questions," suggesting that she should have been at the December 13 meeting if she had anything to say about the project. After the HPC had voted to approve the language of the certificate of appropriateness, however, Thurston was permitted to ask her questions.
Thurston began by recalling that when the first structure at 12 Willard Place was being considered by the HPC, there was a public hearing, and she wanted to know why a public hearing had been waived this time. In their answers to her question, Rector and HPC vice chair Phil Forman indicated that the only issue with the project was the introduction of modern architecture into a historic district and that was dispensed with when the first structure was granted a certificate of appropriateness in June 2011. Thurston then asked if both buildings--the studio and the residence--had been proposed in the original application for a certificate of appropriateness. The question was not answered directly, but, in fact, only the studio was granted a certificate of appropriateness in 2011. In his response, Rector seemed unwittingly to explain the very reason why segmentation is frowned upon in land use planning: the addition, he said, was appropriate to what already existed and what was on the property. In other words, the studio had established the precedent, and the addition did not require similar scrutiny.
The HPC then moved on to its final application: the proposal to install columns to support the oriel at 445-447 Warren Street. To show that the oriel that originally been supported by columns, the owners produced this amazing photograph of the building taken around 1900.
Instead of attempting to replicate the original columns, which had fairly ornate capitals and bases, prefabricated fiberglass columns with simple Doric capitals and bases were being proposed. The reasons given were that it was hard to see from the photograph exactly what the design of the original columns was, and the simpler columns would better showcase the door, which is flanked by the original pilasters.
Rector reminded the commission, "This is an emergency situation" (the oriel is pulling away from the building), and urged, "Let's get this building structurally sound for the community." Polenberg expressed the opinion that the proposed columns, which had been Photoshopped into a picture of the building shown to the commission, seemed "very small." David Voorhees expressed concern about the columns resting directly on the sidewalk.
HPC legal counsel, Whitbeck observed that the Egyptian Revival columns on 357 Allen Street were more like the original columns than what was being proposed. Thompson talked about "two philosophies" of historic preservation, one being "to make changes obvious so there is no confusion" between what's original and what's new--a philosophy that usually applies to new additions to buildings not the replication of architectural details. Rector opined that there was "nothing worse than trying to duplicate what was there [and getting it] wrong."
In the end, the HPC determined the application was complete and voted to waive a public hearing and direct legal counsel to draft a certificate of appropriateness. Rector, Voorhees, Thompson, and Forman voted aye; Polenberg voted nay.
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