Beekman proposal continues to draw criticism
By Brian PJ Cronin
As the pace of development continues to quicken in Beacon, so does the public scrutiny of each new project. Few have been subject to the scrutiny given to The View, a proposed 50-unit apartment building that would sit near City Hall on Beekman Street facing West Main and overlooking the Hudson River.
When the project was unveiled a year ago, there was criticism of its design and perceived lack of harmony with the city’s historic architecture, especially given its prominent location: It would be one of the first buildings visitors to Beacon by train would see as they make their way up to Main St.
In response, the seven-member City of Beacon Planning Board took the extraordinary step of creating an Architectural Review subcommittee to consider the design of this project and others brought before the board.
The planners of The View were asked by the board to redesign it so that it better blends in with the traditional architecture of the city. At its meeting on July 12, the board received the revised plans from Mark Day of M.A. Day Engineering on behalf of the developer, DMS Consolidators. Although board members still had issues with the design, they agreed to draft resolutions of approval based on the drawings to consider at their next meeting.
To make the building blend in better, brick will now be used selectively throughout the design. In order to bring a sense of activity to the building, balconies and a patio were added, as well as a pocket park that would be for public use. A public stairway would help link Beekman Street to Route 9D, although the staircase as planned would not actually connect to Route 9D because of city property in the way. The board asked the designers to discuss with the city the possibility of obtaining an easement or other approval for connecting the stairway all the way out to 9D in order to increase its usefulness. An earlier plan to have valet parking for building residents was scrapped.
The architectural subcommittee also had suggestions. “We tried to introduce a kink to the building to echo the curve of the street and we discussed stepping the building back into the hillside to integrate it into the landscape,” said board member David Burke, who is on the subcommittee, “but we couldn’t find a compromise with either of those ideas, and I think that was because we came late to the project.”
Gary Barrack, also on the committee, agreed. “We got into this in the middle of the project, so it was difficult for us to tell the developer to eliminate their plans and start from square one again,” he said.
The subcommittee members also were not entirely happy with a proposed “green” roof. “We struggled with the design to try and get it to be more responsive to the landscape,” said Jill Reynolds. “The developer and engineer had reasons for not doing that, so we’re kind of just left with the green roof, which at this point is just a three-foot border. I don’t understand the point of that. The point of the green roof is to benefit the whole building in terms of energy consumption — it mitigates water runoff, it looks better, and it can enhance the roof deck experience. So I would like to see that developed more.”
When the floor was opened for public comment, it became clear that some residents are still not satisfied with the design.
“This looks to me like a painted rectangle,” said Jim Zellinger. “It doesn’t seem to be keeping in the style of Beacon at all.”
Colin Gentle told the board, “I would hope that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of urban renewals past in the quest for revenue. New families are moving to Beacon because of its charming, small-town feel. These proposed developments are far outside of those aesthetics and usage. We’re not against new development; we are proponents of smart, sustainable, reasonably scaled and aesthetically appropriate structures which relate to our beautiful and historic architecture. We are the ones who will be living with this.”
Peggy Ross, a Beacon City Council member who said she speaking as a member of the public, said she hoped the city could take lessons from the review of The View when dealing with future development.
“This is a crossroads for Beacon,” she said. “I would like to ask that we all do better in working together. We no longer have to go begging for developers. I would use this occasion to ask that going forward we work closely with them to install some design standards.”