The Galveston Landmark Commission on Monday voted 5-1-1, with Linda Strevell opposed and Nelson Smelker abstaining, to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the architectural design of the Downtown Transportation Terminal that will be built by Mitchell Historic Properties on the northeast corner of 25th Street at The Strand, as part of the Livable Communities grant.
Commission Chair Joe Rozier, an architect who works for MHP, recused himself and sat in the audience with the applicants. He did not participate in the deliberations or the vote.
Bill Ross, senior vice president and general manager of MHP, said that architect Jeffry Brown of Powers Brown Architecture has revised the façade design to include suggestions from the commission at the previous meeting. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“I know this facility is referred to as a bus terminal primarily,” Ross said. “But there are a lot of other uses for this facility.”
Ross noted that the building will provide parking for another 660 cars on The Strand, public restrooms, retail space and a visitors center.
Brown reviewed all of the concerns expressed at the previous meeting and explained how he addressed them. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“There are a lot of opinions out there in the world as to what we ought to be doing here and why we are doing what we’re doing,” Brown said, explaining that he has followed guidelines set by the city. “That’s what we have to start with; that is what we are bound by.”
Brown and others agreed that the guidelines do not permit “replication” of the historic buildings on The Strand but new construction must blend in with those buildings.
However other architects, including Bob Brown, who was the first chair of the Landmark Commission, and David Watson objected to the design of the building, as did Brian Davis, director of preservation services for the Galveston Historical Foundation and Lesley Sommer, executive director of the Historic Downtown Strand Seaport Partnership.
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"The Historic Downtown Strand Seaport Partnership’s support of the intermodal transportation center concept is well documented and remains strong,” Sommer said. “However, the Partnership cannot support the design of the façade as proposed because it does not support the character of the Strand-Mechanic Historic District that keeps tourists and locals coming back.”
Most members of the commission disagreed, and voted to approve the design.
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“I live in this district, I work in this district, I probably spend about 95 percent of my time in this district,” said Greg Lewis, who also is an architect. “My opinion is that new construction in this district should be of a contemporary nature, but also meet all of our design standards.”
Strevell, who voted against the design, noted that the building is on the “main drag” which makes the design more important.
Smelker, who abstained, was concerned that “the historical people don’t like it”.
The Galveston Planning Commission has previously approved a special use permit for the terminal. Now Galveston City Council will again review the project for approval.