By Annette Hinkle
By most anyone’s standards, the building at 25 Job’s Lane in Southampton Village is majestic, grand and a centerpiece of the downtown area.
But the structure — which was designed by architect Grosvenor Atterbury in the late 19th century and has housed the Parrish Art Museum for the last 100 years — is also neglected, vacant and in serious need of repairs.
And now, it’s up to the Village of Southampton to figure out how to fix it — both physically and culturally.
On Tuesday in the former gallery space of the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley and his board unveiled plans for the Southampton Center — a reuse and restoration of the historic property which is being billed as a year round home for culture in the village.
“The Parrish vacated the space at the end of the year and turned the keys over to Southampton,” explained Epley who added that in the past couple of years, the village has worked to revisit what’s possible in the space.
The current vision for the Southampton Center highlights it as a place for residents to gather for a performance or art show, in a café or on the grounds. It’s a vision that also potentially includes a new broadcast studio for WPPB 88.3 FM which would be constructed separately on the north edge of the property.
While nothing is set in stone, Epley noted there is an overarching plan in place which was largely determined by the desires and needs of the community.
“This is an important economic driver in the village,” he added. “A couple years ago, we created a founder’s committee to come up with guiding principles of what we want to accomplish.”
Those principles, stressed Epley, not only include restoration of the building and creation of arts programming, but a master plan to integrate the surrounding area through increased pedestrian access.
To that end, the village selected Boston-based Machado & Silvetti Architects to design a conceptual plan of what might be done with the structure. On Tuesday, partner Jorge Silvetti obliged with a presentaiton on his firm’s vision.
And his glimpse of the property’s future began with a look back.
“The history of the building is relevant to its rediscovery,” noted Silvetti. “The nature of this building had been blurred by its single use — as a museum. In fact, this is not one — but a series of buildings.”
Silvetti noted the first structure built was the 1897 transept which runs east to west on the property and existed by itself — for a short time anyway. Five years later, the auditorium was added to the north side of the transept and in 1913 – all the galleries to the south.
He noted that’s the way it stayed until the mid-20th century when a series of uninspired, but pragmatic additions were made to the western portion of the transept in 1956, 1972 and 1987.
“That’s when the architecture begins to be of a different kind, but not the kind the building is proud of,” said Silvetti. “It is the beginning of a kind of deterioration and forgetting of the original building.”
“There is neglect,” he added. “The building is not collapsing, but it needs a lot of work. There’s live growth on the walls, cracked mortar and all the mechanical equipment is outside around the perimeter of the building.”
In addition, the skylights are in disrepair, the slate on the roof is damaged and there are leaks.
Looking to discover the original three buildings, the architect’s plan calls for demolition of the later additions and taking the structure back to its original shape. The goal is to create flexibility by treating each building as a separate cultural space which could function individually or together as a whole if need be. This involves restoring up to seven entrances around the building which have long been covered up — making it approachable from all sides — rather than just from the Job’s Lane entrance.
Since the buildings were constructed at different times, the floor levels are different in each. One challenge for the architects will be bringing all three structures to the same level while providing universal accessibility to the spaces.
Despite the fact later additions would be removed, the overall area of the building would, in fact grow — from 19,271 square feet to 30,485 square feet. This, noted Silvetti, is due to the need to create lower level areas for mechanical systems and services as well as the separate WPPB broadcast booth.
“How do we do that?” asked Silvetti. “The bulk of the additions that are most demanding in terms of programs and locations would be related to the auditorium which would be upgraded – that’s the one that requires additions and adjacency.”
“We have an opportunity to rake the floor of the auditorium to create optimum views in the theater,” he says. “By making it go to 12 or 13 feet below ground, you have space for props and dressing rooms.”
He noted you also have the opportunity to build out below ground and create areas for the mechanical systems, which are now outside around the perimeter of the building.
“Of 16,700 square feet of new construction, only 25 percent would be above grade,” said Silvetti who also shared plans for two new glass walled additions flanking the sides of the theater — one being a café, the other another flexible cultural space.
“We want to add a café at the public level,” noted Silvetti.
Also proposed is an outdoor covered arcade between the back of the auditorium and the proposed WPPB broadcast studio.
While Machado and Silvetti’s vision is grand, Epley noted there is no firm price tag yet attached to it.
“We’re still in the process of developing a budget,” said Epley who noted restoration of the slate roof alone would be one million dollars. “This is an exciting, but aggressive adaptive reuse of the building and a historic restoration. Part of this process is coming to the community as much as possible to get feedback so we’re not developing something in a vacuum and saying this is our plan.”
“The Parrish operated the building for 100 years…we’re trying to plan for the next 100 years,” said Epley.
Though restoration of the building has yet to begin, it won’t be entirely quiet this summer. The village is planning to offer a 2013 sampler season on site by tapping into outside arts organizations to create offerings in film, visual arts and the performing arts.