Friday, September 8, 2017

This Morning at the HPC

Two projects returned to the Historic Preservation Commission this morning. The first was the facade improvements proposed for the Half Moon at South Front and Allen streets. Having found a picture of the building as it was when it was first constructed in 1946, the owners changed their plans and decided to make building appear as it did when it was new.

There was a question about the canopies over the doors. They had been removed because the weight of them was pulling the brick veneer away from the building. In the plans presented to the HPC this morning, there were no canopies or awnings over the doors. HPC member Miranda Barry expressed the opinion that the canopies were critical to the original design of the building and should be retained. HPC member Rick Rector suggested that the same effect could be achieved with canvas canopies, which wouldn't have the same weight. Because the applicant was concerned about getting the work on the building completed before winter, it was suggested by Rector that the commission grant a certificate of appropriateness on the condition that the applicant come back with a design for the "detail above the doors." With that condition, the HPC members present--Barry, Rector, David Voorhees, Gini Casasco, and Phil Forman--voted unanimously to approve the project and grant a certificate of appropriateness.

Also back before the HPC was the proposal to demolish this building on Partition Street, behind 439 Union Street, and construct a new building in its place.

At its last meeting, the HPC voted unanimously to deny a certificate of appropriateness. What the commissioners found most insupportable then was condoning the demolition of a building that was perfectly sound and fine for its current and intended use as a garage and storage space but inadequate for its proposed use as a garage and "dwelling." In the new application presented today, nothing had changed except the design for the building. The design originally proposed had been described by Barry as "a new, generic contemporary building." The new design mimicks the existing building.

This time, there was no angst about demolishing a perfectly sound building in a historic district. Content that the character of the street would be preserved by this replica of the pre-World War II garage now there, the five commissioners present voted four to one to grant a certificate of appropriateness. After the vote, Casasco, the only dissenter, said glumly, "We're becoming Airbnb Town."

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