By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,431)
The question presented to the Historic Preservation Committee at tonight’s meeting by Dierdre Nice, Director of the St. Lawrence Arts Center and architect David Lloyd was: Is this proposed 400 seat addition headed in the right direction? The answer by the Historic Preservation Committee was a unanimous yes.
For the third time, Nice and Lloyd appeared before the Committee seeking input as to whether or not the proposal met Standard 9 regarding the addition of contemporary design to existing properties like the St. Lawrence Arts Center, formerly a Congregational Church on the Hill. With each meeting, what had started out as a boxy addition was refined and defined in accordance with suggestions from the Committee as well as objections from the Concerned Citizens.
Modifications made to the addition for this meeting included: relocation of the elevator ino the center of the building with no presence on Congress Street and the expansion of the lobby porch into a loggia using granite elements to match the parish hall. “I’ve wiggled and squeezed as much as I can,” Lloyd told the Committee. “There is a certain amount of space we need to be financially viable and to have quality performances,” said Nice.
Ralph Carmona, a founding member of Concerned Citizens, railed at the proposal callilng it “a flawed design….they don’t want to have a discussion with the public. There’s been no mention of community input which undermines this whole process.” Joan Sheedy said: “It’s too big, too modern and doesn’t fit on the Hill. The Hill does not need a 400 seat theater.”
Director Nice responded that the church sanctuary that these plans would replace had a seating capacity of 500 people, more than the current plans for. She emphasized that although the Arts Center has not yet filed an application with the city, it has followed the process for community input as the city requests. Committee member Scott Benson said: “This workshop is an opportunity for that discussion. The applicant has been generous in that regard.” Ted Oldham, Committee member said that “massive buildings will come to Congress Street as they should.”
The next step is to appear before the planning board.