Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lafayette College to Demolish Deco-Era Building

By Christina Georgiou

An image of the preliminary plan for Lafayette College's media studies center,
which calls for the demolition and replacement of the former Case's Tire
Company buildings, at the corner of North Third and Snyder streets.

Lafayette College was granted preliminary approval to demolish the former Case's Tire Company building on North Third Street Monday evening from the Easton Historic District Commission (HDC) to make way for new structures that are to house the college's expanding film and media studies department.

The approval is conditional upon future HDC approval of the new buildings' design and issuance of a city certificate of appropriateness and a signed contract for construction.

While the site has been vacant for some time, the building on the corner of North Third and Snyder streets is "historically important for its art deco architectural details, said HDC consultant Christine Ussler.

While the college's original plan, announced in late 2009, for the property indicated renovations to the existing art deco-era and Victorian buildings, doing that would be cost-prohibitive, Lafayette College Vice President of Finance and Administration Mitchell Wein told HDC members.

"The reuse of space is not (practical) due to requirements for new education buildings and the spaces required for the art building," Wein said. "We needed a theater, and there just wasn't any way to renovate."

Wein said an analysis of the historic structures indicated that $1.8 million in repairs would be required to reinforce the foundations and walls, and they still wouldn't have the space the college's new media center will require.

Andy Smith, head of Lafayette College's media studies department, said the school had four media major students graduate earlier this year, and the department will matriculate more in the coming years, with nine in 2013 and 15 in 2014.

"We need facilities. All good liberal arts schools have programs like this," Smith said, adding, "We hope it will be a vibrant place for our students and the community."
Under the structures would be public gathering spaces, and possibly parking.

Preliminary design sketches for the new structures show windowless, ultra-modern buildings that would house a black box theater, costume and scene shop, and a film screening facility.

The complex, comprised of four or five "masses" is planned to join with the current Williams Visual Art Building via an open-air plaza, with parking and gathering space beneath the structures, which are to be raised on pillars out of the Bushkill Creek and Delaware River flood plains.

Lafayette College representatives stressed that the design should reflect the presence of the waterways that surround the site.

"This site really is today...and probably was, 100 years ago, about water," Wein said.

His statement was echoed by KSS Architects partner David Zaiser, who provided the conceptual drawings.

"I think what's fascinating about the site is how it's dominated by water. It's really an industrial site that we're looking to revitalize," Zaiser said. "It would be an exciting, open area that would allow movement between (land) grades."

"Green" roofs are shown in preliminary sketches, which would help alleviate some runoff, college representatives said.

"We want to take an impervious surface and make it permeable," Zaiser said, estimating that such designs absorb the first inch to inch-and-a-quarter of rainwater.

He also said that some space below the theater could possibly be used for parking.

Some HDC members questioned the preliminary design, indicating that the style may not be in keeping with the historic style of Easton's Downtown district.

"It is questionable whether it will invite anyone to spend time there," said Ussler of the public spaces planned for below the buildings. "There's lots of 'ifs' in (this plan)."

"I'm in approval of the programs...but I've some questions about the aesthetics," said HDC member Clay Mitman. "I think that whatever is on that corner needs to make some sort of statment that says something about the college and the community."

Some too wondered if the below-structure spaces would be a security risk.

"We'll be sure to have appropriate lighting and security, because security is foremost when it comes to our students," said Mary Wilford-Hunt, director of facilities planning for Lafayette. She added the plan calls for a security office to be located on the corner of North Third and Snyder streets.

HDC member Gary Ringhoff said he felt the plans need more detail for the commission to decide whether the site design is appropriate.

"You should come back with more exact plans of what's going to go on and what's going to go up," he said.

"We're going to be back. We're really just at the beginning of this project," Zaiser said.

The Mohican building, across the street at 248 North Third Street, was granted approval by the commission for door replacements and modifications.

It is slated to house a television and video production studio, a rehearsal studio, smart class rooms, faculty offices and student gathering spaces, college representatives said.

1 comment:

  1. Whats so eccentric about this? It looks AMAZING!!! I cant wait to see...