June 22, 2022
Mr. Paul Durand, Chair
Design Review Board
City of Salem
98 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970
Dear Mr. Durand,
After reviewing the changes to the building design for the Crescent Lot as presented to the SRA at their June 8, 2022 meeting, Historic Salem offers the following comments. These comments are consistent with comments we have made during earlier schematic design iterations for this important project.
It is commonly agreed upon that this building’s location is a defining gateway to downtown Salem, which is rich in 19th- and early 20th- century commercial and mixed-use buildings representative of Salem’s history as a commercial center. The new proposed design fails to shoulder the responsibility for this keystone location.
In conveying the Crescent Lot, the City Council required that the building be “compatible with uses in terms of scale, use, design, and historic character,” and as stated in Section 3 – Design Standards of the Downtown Renewal Plan, “Large scale developments or buildings shall be reduced in overall impact by providing variation in building massing,” with the standards presenting specific ways this can be achieved.
We support either traditional- or contemporary-design as long as the building is complementary and referential to the details and context of downtown Salem’s historic buildings. This “new” design must be explained and critiqued as rigorously as the initial Schematic Design. It is important that the Winn design team detail what aspects of Salem’s existing downtown buildings -- the scale, massing and details -- were referenced in creation of this new design. The DRB-approved Schematic Design from last fall incorporated numerous features that served to break up the mass of the building and provided depth and texture. Likewise, the new design needs to be thoroughly developed to achieve the same goal.
In its most recent SRA presentation, the design team highlighted four elevations that are of visual importance, and we agree that these locations should have emphasis or creative design elements, but we find that in the current design those elevations do not create anything of interest. Of particular importance is the “flatiron” elevation at the Washington and Bridge Street intersection as well as the river facing elevation, which have become noticeably plain and coplanar. In these locations, physical variation of the roof line and elevation depth, as well as purposeful detailing of the materials need to be considered.
We look forward to hearing more information about the materials. As presented, the materials lack articulation and, in comparison to the previous design, do not create the same visual interest, movement or highlighting of key building elevations. Buildings in Salem provide a wide slate of material options that, when used together, delineate windows/sets of windows, entrances, floor levels, rooflines, and vertical features. These elements could and should influence the design of this project in traditional or contemporary ways.
We appreciate that the Bridge Street pedestrian realm is being incorporated into the overall design and ask the Design Review Board to focus attention on the sidewalk level to ensure that the opportunity to change the character of this roadway into a pedestrian friendly path is maximized. Future presentations should include views of the building from North Street near the Federal Street traffic light.
We agree that the plaza and stair design is an improvement, particularly with a more effective terminus of the monumental stair in the center of the block.
We request that the DRB consider including the treatment of any rooftop mechanical needs as part of the overall design composition because of the extended view of this building from North Street on entering downtown.
Thank you for considering these comments.
6/22/2022 12:12:22 pm
Salem is the home of renowned architect, Samuel McIntire.
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