Planning Board pulls historic certificate from 700 Center St.
by Joshua Maloni
Residents and passersby have wondered what is going on with 700 Center St., the former Amy K's Mystick Korner in the Village of Lewiston. A new addition was added to the historic building's east side in the spring, and construction appeared to be moving right along. But in recent days, the project has been noticeably delayed.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, building owner Jack Lyon told the Village of Lewiston Planning Board that siding issues put a temporary halt to the project. The problem, he said, is that 700 Center St., was shoddily constructed.
"When I was here first, our plan was to restore the building as much as possible, but my X-ray vision wasn't working," Lyon said. "We got into demolition, stripped the inside walls, and what we found was there's no exterior sheathing on the building.
"The way a building is typically built is you put up your studs, then you cover it with sheathing, space boards, you know, horizontal boards back then. Plywood these days. ... Over that, you put a secondary moisture barrier. That takes care of water that gets past the siding and keeps it from getting inside the building.
"(Here,) there's no sheathing; there's no secondary moisture barrier."
"Our building is going to fall apart. ...We've got to do something," Lyon said.
Just recently, Lyon's contractor left the job. So he brought John Tripi Jr. of J.R. Building and Remodeling with him to Wednesday's meeting. Tripi said the building could be re-sided with new wood, but that it would cost between $50,000 and $70,000. Vinyl, on the other hand, could go over top of the existing materials and would cost between $27,000 and $34,000.
Lyon said he had no money allocated for new siding, and that he couldn't afford the higher-priced option.
After almost 80 minutes of debate on whether or not a historic building from the 1800s should be remodeled with vinyl siding, the Village of Lewiston Planning Board made a decision. Members ultimately opted to remove "historic" from the argument. They voted 4-1 to rescind 700 Center St.'s historic certificate, thus paving the way for Lyon, an Oregon architect, to rehabilitate the building with vinyl siding instead of wood.
Jamie Symmonds cast the lone "no" vote.
The decision was made based on the understanding that the building, while old, is not historically significant to Lewiston; that the building is in dire need of reinforcement; and that Lyon is not able to bear the financial burden of using wood instead of vinyl.
The board then voted 5-0 to allow Lyon to use vinyl siding.
This action was an amendment to Lyon's previously approved plan. In February, he said his goal was to restore 700 Center St., and convert it into a street-level wine bar and retail units, with second-floor apartments.
The Planning Board was not in favor of allowing a historic building to be covered in vinyl siding. For more than an hour Wednesday, the two sides argued over the difference between white-painted wood and white vinyl, the idea of historic vs. modern and, most importantly, how the village code should be interpreted.
Planning Board Chairman David Giusiana, who also is an architect, said the point of the historic preservation portion of the village code is to ensure historic properties remain true to their original character.
Board member Loretta Frankovitch told Lyon, "I think, if you would've come to us in the beginning and said, 'Hey, I'm interested in buying this building, and I think the wood is in deplorable shape. I'm going to rip the whole thing off,' I think ... we could've said, as a historic preservation board, 'No, we don't want you to do that, because we want to preserve the integrity of the building.' "
"It's hard for us to now turn around and say, after you've said, 'We're going to restore this building,' to look at this and say, 'Yeah, we can go with this,' " she added. "This just isn't cutting it for me."
Symmonds referenced two other Lewiston projects, the wine bar at 755 Center St., and the former "Bucket of Blood" at 65 Center St. She said those building owners had unexpected financial and construction burdens, but overcame those obstacles without widely straying from the original intent of their proposals.
"It's Lewiston," she said. "They're old buildings."
"We have to preserve the buildings as much as possible, and I just don't agree with the vinyl," Symmonds said.
"I'm between a rock and hard place here, because I understand the logic of everything you've said, with respect to the costs you've run into," said board member Ken Slaugenhoupt. He pointed to changes made to the building that were not included in Lyon's original proposal (including vinyl windows and an all-glass front door) and said, "It's not as much that we have a desire to maintain the historical nature; we have an obligation to maintain the historical nature. That's why this commission exists. So, it's really hard to balance (your financial) numbers ... with respect to what this board wants to do."
"It's a tough, tough decision for us," Slaugenhoupt added.
In the end, neither Lyon nor the board members could come up with an economically feasible option that preserved the building while also preserving its historic status.
"There's no good answer here," Slaugenhoupt said before the Planning Board, which doubles as the village's Historic Preservation Commission, voted to withdraw 700 Center St.'s historic designation.
As part of the Planning Board's approval of silver-gray-colored Dutch lap vinyl siding, members are requiring Lyon to install white, non-vinyl trim (like a poly-plastic synthetic wood casing or aluminum). The detailing and corner boards are to match the building's historic roots. And the front door will be retrimmed and gridded.
Lyon said his intent now is to turn the first floor into a wine store, and not a wine bar.
While Lyon received an OK from the Planning Board, he will need the Village Board to approve the new siding changes before he can take action. Three trustees (Vic Eydt, Nick Conde and Dennis Brochey) were in the audience Wednesday, and had originally agreed to meet for the purpose of voting Lyon's revision up or down. However, they decided to table a vote until their 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, when Mayor Terry Collesano and Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland are expected to be in attendance.