On Monday night, the Hudson City School District Board of Education met for more than two hours to discuss the design for the proposed addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. The meeting took place in the cafeteria at Montgomery C. Smith and began with a walk around the grounds. They listened to George Keeler, HCSD Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, explain the problems--having to do with the rock just underground and the existing infrastructure (a heating oil tank and a loading dock)--impeding any plan to build the addition to the south and east of the existing building, where a playground and basketball court are now located.
They viewed the placement of the proposed "hyphen" connecting the addition to the original building and the dimensions of the addition as marked out by traffic cones.
They explored how far the expanded parking lot would encroach into the grassy expanse of lawn in front of the building.
Back in the cafeteria, HCSD Superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier led the board through a review of all plans for the addition that had been considered since the process began last November. She recounted how, when it was discovered that the subsoil under a portion of the proposed building was unstable and would require remediation and a retaining wall in order to construct a building there, she had asked the architects for a design and cost estimates for a two-story building, believing that the cost of a two-story building would be comparable to the cost of the one-story building and the expense of addressing the unstable subsoil. This turned out not to be the case. Because of the need for staircases and an elevator, the cost of the two-story building ended up being $1.2 million more than that of a one-story building. The upshot of the presentation seemed to be that a one-story addition attached to the south end of the original building was the only option.
But it wasn't an option that several members of the board, and apparently Suttmeier herself, were comfortable with. There was much talk about alternatives, going back to consider earlier plans that avoided the unstable ground. A concern shared by several board members was the distance that the facade of the new addition would set back from the facade of the historic building. At one time, the addition was said to be 20 feet back from the original building; now, the distance being cited is 10 to 12 feet. The architects had prepared a rendering to show the addition connecting up to the original building, but a few board members seemed to doubt that it provided an accurate representation of the setback.
The architects were asked to confirm that the State Historic Preservation Office had approved the one-story design. They indicated that it had been approved, but they were waiting on the results from an archaeological study before an official determination would be made. A member of the public present at the meeting (full disclosure: it was Gossips) expressed surprise that SHPO would have approved the one-story design, because although it met two criteria for additions to historic buildings--not altering or destroying the historic fabric of the original building and differentiating the new addition from the original, in this case accomplished with a glass connecting corridor--it did not meet the criterion of compatibility, which has all to do with massing, size, and scale. The suggestion that compatibility might be achieved with a two-story building that echoed the form of the 1997 addition visible at the left side of the building instead of a design that, with its central gable, mimicked the historic building inspired brainstorming about alternative possibilities.
There was much discussion, but no resolution was reached. After the meeting had gone on for more than two hours, Suttmeier posed this question to the board: "If money were no object, what would you like to see?" The answer came from board member Sage Carter: "Blast the stone, and put a building similar to the 1997 addition at the back." She went on to say that, instead of an addition extending out from the south side of the building, "The community would see hundreds of kids playing in the grassy space in front."
Although the architects indicated that the project should now be entering the construction documents phase, it appears that the design phase for this part of the Capital Project continues.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK