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Jan 21, 2015 10:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Approves Opening Up Wall On Jobs Lane At Southampton Center

Jan 21, 2015 11:32 AM

The face of Jobs Lane will change this year when a portion of the historic brick wall that lines the Southampton Arts Center property is opened up to make the grounds more inviting for the public.

At a Southampton Village Board meeting on Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved a plan to open the center portion of the 100-year-old wall enclosing the former Parrish Art Museum property, which has a wrought-iron fence on top, and install brick steps to welcome visitors to the green space.

Under the plan, which was presented by Southampton architect Siamak Samii, the central portion of the wall will be taken apart to create a roughly 13-foot-wide entrance to the grounds off Jobs Lane. The Southampton Arts Center will use the same bricks, combined with recycled antique bricks from a demolition project in East Hampton, to create new steps that will grant access to the property.

“We want to push forward with opening the fence a little bit more to communicate with the public that we are open to everybody,” Arts Center Director Michele Thompson said on Tuesday. “Over the summer, it became clear that the fence, as it is, is off-putting to some people, and we would see some people putting their head through and not coming in. I think it would be helpful to take it to the next step for more public access to make sure the entire community understands that the Southampton Arts Center is truly theirs.”

This week represents the second time the project was presented to the Village Board, which had expressed concerns last spring about approving alterations to such a historic property in the center of the village.

The property was first built in 1897 to house Samuel Parrish’s collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and 19th-century plaster casts. Three sections, all designed by architect Grosvenor Atterbury, were added in three phases ending in 1913. More recently, the building housed the Parrish Art Museum, until the Southampton Arts Center took over the space in 2013.

Over the summer, Mr. Samii and Ms. Thompson worked with the board to create alternative plans, and to demonstrate how opening the property up could help the village.

“At first, I was very against this, because I felt this is the historic district, and we are exchanging something that has always been a real part of the village,” Village Trustee Nancy McGann said. “But the use of the building is changing, and it is changing in a way that it will be inviting the public in and including it more than ever before. The plans look terrific, and it is beautifully done.”

Not everyone was so optimistic. Superintendent of Public Works Gary Goleski asked the board to reject the renovation, saying there have been previous attempts to open the yard to the public that have not worked. He said tearing down even a part of a historic feature of the village for something that might not work is risky.

“The north side of that street is probably the prettiest section of any downtown street in our village,” he said. “The amount of stairs there is not the reason people are not coming in—you need to give them a reason. To take down a 100-year-old wall seems like the definition of insanity. This is something that has been there a long time, and what you are trying to do has a good chance of not working.”

While village officials said they could see Mr. Goleski’s point, they said the plan would preserve as much of the wall as possible while using other historic materials, and was worth trying.

Village Mayor Mark Epley also said the village will be working on a plan in the next few years to restore the rest of the wall, to fix cracks and make it as beautiful as it could be, and they would be asking Mr. Goleski for his input.

The project will be funded mostly through private donations, but a Suffolk County grant for $16,000 has been approved for the Southampton Arts Center, which would cover roughly 15 percent of the project’s cost.

“This is great,” Village Trustee Michael Irving said on Tuesday. “I was hesitant at first to open that wall there, but I think you are making a very concerted effort to bring people onto those grounds, because they are pretty magnificent and should be enjoyed. It is a large property to have in the middle of the village that is really being underutilized.”

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By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Jan 21, 15 1:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is an absolute shame.
By LocalTeacher (23), Southampton on Jan 21, 15 9:18 PM

Why? What's so "shameful"?
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Jan 21, 15 9:36 PM
This wall is historic. It's part of what makes Southampton the quaint historic village that it is. If our elected official continue to undermine the regulations in place to keep Southampton the place that we know and love, we will be living in a place that resembles the sterile "Nassau county" like towns so many of us dread. The Concer house, Meadow & Gin Lane housing styles, and now this...such a shame.
By S'hamptonNative (84), Southampton on Jan 23, 15 12:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Squeeze in a Citarella, knock down a little wall, let the Starbuck's in (right across from the Citarella)...clearly Epley and the others don't care about quaint or historic. It's all about access. That is why it's a shame and shame on you for not even seeing how unfortunate this is for the village. I guess that's how things like this get passed. No one sees the shame in this on the board.
By LocalTeacher (23), Southampton on Jan 27, 15 8:35 PM