Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Next Phase for the Warren Theatre

On Friday, the proposed renovation of the Warren Inn came back before the Historic Preservation Commission. In June, the application was determined to be incomplete because it lacked, among other things, historic photographs of the building and elevation drawings that showed the sides of the building. On Friday, all the missing pieces were presented.

One significant change had been made in the plan, based on the discussion at the previous HPC meeting. Guests will now be able to drive into the porte cochere, unload luggage, and proceed into the parking lot rather than having to back out onto the street and enter the parking lot through a main gate.

HPC architect member Jack Alvarez remained concerned about replacing the steel casement windows in the facade. When he asked about the condition of the steel windows, Joe Rapp, construction manager for the project, said they are so corroded that they can't be opened. Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, added, "If they open them, they wouldn't close again." Wood casement windows are proposed to replace the original steel ones, and Alvarez warned that the appearance of a steel window can only be matched with another steel window. Wood casement windows will alter the overall look of the building.

Alvarez and HPC member Tony Thompson both had problems with the proposed entrance door to the hotel. Thompson observed that a principle of architectural design, especially for commercial buildings, is to make the entrance obvious, and he didn't think the single door in the center of the facade accomplished that. Alvarez remarked that it would be wonderful to have entrance of the original theater, with four pairs of double doors, back for the hotel. 

Rapp explained that the plan being proposed for the entrance worked with the existing masonry openings, created when the building was converted into a motel in 1959, and the owners did not want to change that.

The one change in the proposed design that Rapp said the owners of the building would be willing to make, "if the HPC is adamant about it," involves the stepped parapet on the facade. (The existence of the parapet was unknown until Bruce Mitchinson, whose father worked at the theater, provided pictures of the building from 1938 and 1939.) Rapp said parts of the masonry facade still exist under the "mansard" roof that was added in 1959, but it was damaged either before the roof went on or during the installation. Alvarez noted that the stepped parapet was part of the original Art Deco design of the building and pointed out that the parapet along the side of the building, with its terracotta cap, is also stepped. He commented, "If the parapet could step, it would relieve the monotone of fabric and color" that is being proposed.

In the end, a certificate of appropriateness was granted on the condition that the original stepped parapet on the facade be restored. If for some reason this is determined to be impossible, the project must come back before the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of the alternative design.

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