Saturday, October 8, 2016

Design Development Continues

On Thursday, there was a special meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education to consider the newest configuration of the addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School. The new concept, which Gossips reported about on September 27, would build classrooms on top of and beside the existing tech wing and put the gymnasium at the front but at a considerable distance from the historic school building. Two different versions of this concept were presented: one with a flat roof on the gymnasium building; the other with a roof line that echoed the profile of the historic building and the 1997 additions to the north of the historic building. 

A third version was also presented on Thursday night--one that had a gable roof on the gymnasium building but not the Colonial Revival silhouette.

Dr. Maria Suttmeier, HCSD superintendent, began the meeting by reporting that the new concept had passed muster with all the stakeholders on the basis of its support for the academic program because it kept the new classrooms in close proximity to the main school building. It was then architect John Starkey's turn to report on the cost analysis. The new configuration was within the budget, but only the version with the flat roof on the gymnasium. The structural frame for a peaked roof on the gym would cost $200,000 and the end wall that tied the new addition in with the original building and the 1997 addition would cost $50,000, putting the design that best achieved compatibility $250,000 over budget.

Fortunately, Suttmeier and the board did not immediately conclude that they and the community would have to settle for the flat roof. Suttmeier asked the architect and the engineer, "What kind of items would we have to look at to save $250,000?" The answer was "reducing square footage," which is not an option. Suttmeier told the board, "We are a school district that needs a lot of [academic] support systems, and we need a lot of space." She acknowledged the design that echoed the Colonial Revival profile of the historic building met the compatibility criteria of massing, size, and scale and connected the design of the new building with the existing buildings but told the board that she could live with either design "because we need to focus on academic support systems." Still, when the meeting was adjourned, both designs remained in the running. Starkey agreed to do renderings of both versions of the new design for review at the next school board meeting on October 24.

Since the meeting, Gossips has learned that another possibility has been suggested--one that could achieve the desired result in terms of compatibility and be within the budget. The suggestion combines the gymnasium with the flat roof with the end walls that provide the desired profile and adds an ornamental detail--a kind of balustrade--along the north and south edges of the roof that would relate to the crest and balconets on the historic building (and also hide the mechanicals mounted on the roof). The architect agreed to prepare elevation drawings to show what this would look like.

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