Sunday, September 18, 2016

Struggling with Budget, Site, and Compatibility

TomorrowMonday, September 19at 6 p.m., there will be a special meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education. The principal agenda item for the meeting, which will take place in the cafeteria of the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, will be the Capital Project, in particular, the phase of the Capital Project that involves the proposed addition to the historic WPA school building, which was completed in 1937 and originally known as Chancellor Livingston High School.

When last Gossips reported on the project to construct an addition to this historic school building for primary grades, it had been discovered that the subsoil under portions to the proposed single-story building was unstable. For this reason, HCSD superintendent Dr. Maria Suttmeier asked the architects to provide design and cost comparisons for a one-story building, which would involve the unanticipated costs to stabilize the soil, and a two-story building. To remind readers, below are an elevation and a rendering of the proposed one-story addition.

The possibility of a two-story alternative design seemed a promising one. After all, most of the compatibility issues of the one-story addition could be attributed to the fact that it was one story and, for that reason, could not meet the criteria of compatibility when it came to massing, size, and scale. A two-story addition, which would echo the very successful, in terms of compatibility, addition visible at the left side of the historic building, might be just the thing. 

At last Monday's meeting, John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture showed the board the two-story design and estimated that constructing the two-story version would cost $2.1 million more than the one-story version. (In an email to Gossips, Suttmeier, who provided the image of the two-story elevation, set the cost at $1.2 million beyond the budget.)

Sharkey told the board that, because the building had been determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the proposed designthe one-story versionhad been submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for review. He reported that SHPO "had no issues" with the design and had advised them to "try not to overpower the original building," which he said they are doing with the low profile. He argued that the two-story version "competes with the original building." Gossips submits that overpowering or competing might not be quite so much of an issue if the central gable were eliminated, and the facade were all brick instead of one-third brick and two-thirds block, selected to imitate the limestone banding of the original building.

At the school board meeting last Monday, it was also revealed that the facade of the new addition would set back only 10 to 12 feet from the facade of the original building. In the past, the setback was said to be 20 feet. The "hyphen"the corridor that connects the addition to the original buildingwill set back 28 feet.

HCSD board member Sage Carter, who called the proposed addition "ugly as sin," wanted to know why the possibility of constructing the addition behind the original building had not been explored. She was told that there was a rock ledge beneath the ground in that area and the construction of the 1997 addition had required a lot of blasting. For that reason, a location behind the building was not considered.

The meeting on Monday, at which the options for the addition will be discussed, will begin with a tour of the site, so, as Suttmeier explained, "everyone has an idea of the parameters we have had to work within."

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