Friday, February 27, 2015

HPC Hears from the Public

This morning at 10 a.m., the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed design for 701 Union Street, the metal building constructed in 1977 to be an auto parts store which is now being transformed into the Hudson City Police and Court Center.

Rick Rector, chair of the HPC, began the public hearing by explaining that the commission's concern was with the compatibility of the design and the materials with the surrounding neighborhood and reminded the commission members that their role in the public hearing was to "listen and learn." He made it clear that the public hearing would last no more than an hour, but it was over in far less time than that.

Richard Franklin, the architect for the project, was on hand to present the plans to the HPC. He began by saying it had been "a fascinating project to be involved in." He spoke of the complexity that needed to be incorporated into the interior design and noted that the building sits below street level. The goal, he explained, was "to uplift it and give it some presence." The use of metal paneling made it easier to utilize the metal panel system of the existing building, and the metal "parapet" proposed was an inexpensive way to increase the building's height.

Franklin said he had "always been interested in the way the roofs in the area were configured" and spoke of the proposed design as "contextualizing" the building into the existing neighborhood.

Although, it had been reported that there were "many residents who are not happy with the exterior design of what this building will look like" and there were a fair number of people in attendance, only two people made comments, and both were positive. Sarah Sterling, supervisor for the First Ward, acknowledged "all the complexity of meshing the police and court" and congratulated everyone involved. She expressed the opinion that she liked the design and said the architect had done "a great job with what was there." Nicole Vidor echoed Sterling's comments, calling the design "an extremely handsome building." Had the public hearing gone on a bit longer, Gossips might have opined that the building was a textbook example of both adaptive reuse and compatibility of modernity with historic surroundings.

When the public hearing was over, the HPC resumed its discussion of the building. Some members asked questions that seemed less than relevant to the review at hand. Peggy Polenberg wanted to know about lighting on the site and how people entered the building; David Voorhees wondered about snow on the roof. A germane comment was made by Miranda Barry, who lives in the neighborhood and confessed her personal interest in the building and its appearance. She commended Franklin for "making the effort to incorporate elements of existing architecture" into the design and called it a "really good job."

The HPC then voted unanimously to give the design its blessing.

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