Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Preliminary Work on Long-Vacant Buildings Gets Nod from Historic District Commission

By Christina Georgiou

Work on 118 and 120 Northampton St. will begin with pulling off the old
boarding to see what's underneath. Architect Jeff Martinson said
he hope to restore as much as possible of the long-vacant, dilapidated
buildings and renovate the rest.
Work is set to begin on two long-vacant and dilapidated buildings 118 and 120 Northampton St., after the City of Easton's Historic District Commission gave a nod of approval for preliminary work to begin on the structures Monday evening.

The removal of the existing plywood that has boarded up the buildings' facades and windows needs to be removed so the construction team can get a better idea of the work that will need to be done to restore and renovate the structures, project architect Jeff Martinson told the board.

Additionally, the construction team plans to restore the wooden doors and other historic features of the buildings, as well as demolish a one-story later addition on the rear of one 120 Northampton St..

"We're looking to honor Northampton Street," Martinson said of the building revitalization effort, noting that the current deteriorated condition of the buildings combined with the old plywood boarding is an impediment to the effort. "The reason we're doing this in phases is because we don't know what we want to add, but we know what we want to take away."
A window on 118 Northampton
St.,  one of many that is in need of
Easton Redevelopment Authority Director Gretchen Longenbach noted that current grant  funding for the project doesn't yet include replacement money for features that are  not restorable. She added that there are earmarked state funds that cover environmental remediation, applicable to lead paint, asbestos removal and other hazardous conditions on the properties.

"The problem is that these funds will give you money to pull an asbestos-containing roof down but won't give you a penny to put a new roof on," Longenbach said.

But she expects further funding for some of the revitalization work to be forthcoming, which would mean things like windows would be replaced shortly after the initial facade work is done.

"It will either be the final windows...or painted plywood (going in after the existing boarding is removed)," she said. "The best scenario is that the second funding phase comes through, and there's no real boarded-up phase."

"We want to take away some of the hazard that is there," Martinson said. "Ideally, the new work follows on the heels of this work."

Both Martinson and Longenbach added that as much of the existing historic storefronts as possible will be preserved.

The back of the two buildings. The one-story addition at 120
Northampton St., on the left, is set to be demolished, and
a stucco coating is planned after windows are added to
the bare wall.
"We're looking for historic photographs to see what was historically there," Martinson said, adding that by the time the shop was used as a cafe, in the 1980s, modifications had already been made. "We don't really know how much of the original storefront exists...(The entrance) was vaulted, but it's been altered."

In any case, the vintage stained glass window above the entrance of 118 Northampton is set to stay, Martinson promised.

"Worst case is, it would be removed, brought to a stained glass shop and put back," he said.

The western wall of 120 Northampton Street will be stabilized, and eventually is set to have a protective stucco coating, after windows, whose placement is yet to be determined, are cut into bare face.

But some agreements need to be ironed out before that happens, Martinson said, adding that the walls lays right on or even over the adjacent property line.

A postcard of the former Terminal Hotel. The site is now a
parking lot. 120 Northampton Street can be seen on the
far right of the image.
Permanent easements will be necessary for the wall to be allowed to have windows, but given that the neighboring property, once the site of the Terminal Hotel, is now a parking lot and dedicated to the nearby Eastonian hotel, he feels being granted the permission is quite likely.

"I want to make this an elevation that we can be proud of because I think this will be there for quite a while," he said. "It's not going to be a blank facade."

All present members of the Historic District Commission voted to approve the preliminary phases of the project for both buildings, with the exception of board secretary Karen Johnson, who was absent, and chairman Rob Jacobs, who is an attorney and whose firm represents the project developer.

Scott Voelker, a Downtown resident who is also a project manager for Spillman Farmer Architects in Bethlehem, voted in his first session as the board's newest member. He replaces former board member Lynne Holder, who declined a renewal of her appointment when her term ended in December.

Further approvals are expected to be sought for both 118 and 120 Northampton Street in coming months as Martinson and developer Borko Milosev, principal for Post Road Management, make more concrete plans for the restoration and renovation of the two buildings. Commercial shop spaces are planned for the ground floors of both, with residential apartments on the upper floors.

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