Architects Envision The Southampton Center As A Multi-Functional, Historic Gem

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Conceptual plans for the Southampton Center, a proposed public arts, cultural and community center at the site of the former Parrish Art Museum building at 25 Jobs Lane, propose a different building than what exists—but a building that is more in tune with what the original architect envisioned for the space.

At a Southampton Village Board work session on Tuesday night, which was held in the former museum, Architect Jorge Silvetti of Machado and Silvetti Associates revealed his firm’s ideas on how to transform the building, which is owned by the village, into a multi-functional, flexible space that would remain a historic gem.

Village Mayor Mark Epley said that he and the Founders Committee, a group he formed specifically to plan the center’s future, are aiming to start construction in 2014, but need to raise money to fund the restoration. He would not estimate how much needs to be raised, but said replacing the roof alone could cost $1 million. In the past, village officials have said renovations may cost up to $10 million.

The Southampton Center has been envisioned as the new hub of arts and culture in the village, incorporating performing arts, film and educational programming, and even though the building will not see renovations until 2014, the Founders Committee is devoted to keeping the lights on with a 2013 summer “sampler season.”

Significant work must be done to the building before it can realize its full potential, however. Currently, the building is 19,271 square feet and would grow to approximately 30,485 square feet.

Pointing out that the building has multiple additions, he also recommended removing the most contemporary ones to uncover the original Grosvenor Atterbury architecture from around the turn of the 20th century.

Currently, the building’s main entrance opens up to Jobs Lane, but Mr. Silvetti said that by removing the mid-century additions, as well as walls within the former art gallery that were added to make more gallery space, entrances that have been there since the original building was built would be revealed.

“In removing them, we’ll have the complete building in all its splendor,” he said. “It would truly be a building in the round. There would be no more main facade. The main facade is wherever you’re coming from.”

In addition to leveling the floor throughout the building so that it is more handicapped-accessible and has better flow, the architects plan on sloping the floor down about 14 feet below the ground in the auditorium space, which is at the northern part of the parcel. Doing so would allow more seating and a more versatile space for performing arts, Mr. Silvetti said.

On each side of the auditorium, “glass spaces” would be built for programming—classes, performances, etc.—and a courtyard would be added. Mr. Silvetti showed illustrations of a courtyard that Mr. Atterbury had sketched for the museum that never came to fruition.

Hoping to include Southampton public radio station WPPB 88.3 FM in the center’s future, a studio and a cafe will be added to the site.

A proposed pavilion that would accommodate activities while fundraising and construction goes on is now up for debate, because such a structure would need to fit with the property, the mayor said, adding that planning for the site is still ongoing and expected to continue.

“We’re trying to plan for the next 100 years,” he said. “I’ve told people over and over again that the decisions we make today are not 10- or 20-year decisions, but 100-year decisions. We want to do this right, even if it takes a little bit longer to develop the property and the building to its maximum use so it will continue to operate for 100 years.”

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