New Parrish Art Museum close to approval

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The Parrish Art Museum is one step closer to breaking ground on a new building in Water Mill.

The Southampton Town Planning Board examined traffic management plans last week that are required by the New York State Department of Transportation and the board will likely approve those plans today. The building, a modern design on 13.7 acres surrounded by potato fields and vineyards on Montauk Highway, will be constructed in two phases as funding permits.

Phase one will measure 42,274 square feet and feature gallery and classroom space, an auditorium, a lobby, cafe and gift shop. A second phase will add administrative offices and an expanded gift shop and cafe.

According to museum spokeswoman Erin Ferguson, museum officials have already raised $30 million for the project, or about half of the estimated $60 million needed to finance the first phase, through private donations. They have not yet started the public portion of their fund-raising efforts.

The museum bought the Water Mill property for $3.8 million in 2005 after residents in Southampton Village opposed a plan to expand its existing location on Jobs Lane. The museum originally planned to build an 80,000-square-foot building, but the costs of exhibition space, averaging more than $1,300 per square foot, made such a plan too expensive.

Both the original and the new, scaled-back building were designed by the noted Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, which designed the Tate Modern museum in London.

The new museum is scheduled to open in 2009.

Before the Planning Board last Thursday, the Parrish Art Museum’s attorney, Wayne Bruyn, was skeptical about the Department of Transportation’s request that a sidewalk be placed in front of the building. “We want to have an event with schoolchildren and make it known that it’s a sidewalk to nowhere,” he said.

The Planning Board was more sympathetic to the idea of installing a sidewalk.

“It could, at some future date, hook up,” said board member Jacqui Lofaro, adding that people could ride their bicycles on the sidewalk to stay out of the way of traffic on the road. “It’s long-term planning,” she said.

Ms. Lofaro added that, when sidewalks were added to the recent County Road 39 expansion, people began using them instead of walking along the side of the road.

The state department had also asked that the museum’s parking lot be paved, instead of the loose gravel in the original design. Though the state would like to see trees planted along the edge of the street, the town does not want them.

According to Ms. Ferguson, the museum needs only Suffolk County Health Department approval before it can begin construction.

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