Editor’s note: This is the most recent in a series of columns by members of Middlebury’s Town Offices and Recreation Facilities Steering Committee. Nancy Malcolm chairs that committee and John Dale is a senior architect at Bread Loaf Corp.
The proposed project to replace the town offices building offers Middlebury the opportunity to build a true town hall, a people’s house, where public business will be carried out in a transparent and open manner in the heart of the downtown. It will provide the town with a modern, super energy efficient, durable, accessible and attractive building that will be welcoming to citizens and visitors and an appropriate representation of the town’s pride in itself and its community. The new location will be on the northeast quadrant of the Cross Street Bridge circle, just a minute’s walk from the present town offices, and adjacent to the Ilsley Library. Here, it will face one of the most prominent public spaces in town, mark the approach to the downtown from the east, south and west and complete the architectural fabric of Main Street where it meets the circle.
Bread Loaf Corp. worked with the Town Offices/Recreation Center Facilities Steering Committee to define the scope of work, project goals and assess the important characteristics and opportunities of the sites. We also met several times with the staff of the town offices and with the library board to further develop the requirements and opportunities for the new town hall.
The following are the resulting Critical Success Factors developed by Bread Loaf and the Steering Committee for the new Town Hall Project:
1. To explore the scope of the Town Offices Project in an open and inclusive process.
2. To propose a new Town Office Project to meet the current and projected needs, that fits into the historic village and that reflects the significance of the Town Hall to the community.
3. To propose a project that is viable and achievable within the project budget.
4. To plan for other public needs such as library growth and public parking.
5. To propose a project that creates a healthy, maintainable, durable and energy efficient environment.
The design concept proposed to meet these goals accommodates a 9,500 square-foot program, primarily in a two story, L-shaped structure that is oriented toward the north and east property lines of the lot. This will create an open space that faces southwest (ideal orientation for passive solar gain and photovoltaic panels) and the circle. Within this open space will be a one-story lobby with a curved glass, wood and metal façade reflecting the geometry of the roundabout and framing a landscaped plaza. The sidewalks and crosswalks of Main and Cross streets will flow gracefully into this public outdoor space and create an active and energetic environment intertwined with the pedestrian life of the village similar to the spaces in front of Sama’s Cafe, Otter Creek Bakery and the Post Office.
The primary exterior material of the two-story structure will be multi-toned, amber-colored brick that is compatible with the brick of the other major downtown buildings. The west end of the two-story structure will present a strong, noble facade facing Main Street and be referential of the 19th century architecture of the downtown. This façade will be set back from the street approximately the same distance as the Library portico, thus allowing, for the first time, a clear view of the library façade from the round-about and southern approaches to downtown. The facade will have a balanced two-story bay window providing views in and out of the Large Board Room and opening this room up to the street. The materials and detailing of the bay window will wrap around the southwest building corner and become the language of the curved lobby façade, reflecting the rhythm and movement of vehicles and pedestrians.
The path and landscaped area along the south side of the library will be maintained in approximately the same proportions (if not wider) and continue to allow access to the side library entrance. The Town Hall will have a side entrance opposite the library door to allow easy access from the rear parking lot and maximize the connection of the two buildings.
The parking lot behind the library will continue to have the same amount of spaces as presently available behind Ilsley Library and Osborne House, due to opening spaces to the public that are presently reserved for Osborne tenants. Parking efficiency will be improved by designating a significant portion of the parking spaces to be 15-minute spaces (as opposed to the present three-hour limit), dedicated for visitors to the library and Town Hall. In addition, the existing parking at the proposed park will remain and be available for general downtown use as well as for the library and town offices.
The lobby interior is envisioned to have a wood beamed ceiling, wood paneled walls and porcelain tile flooring. It will have seating areas along the windows and possibly a public information desk for visitors. The curved glass wall will have exterior solar shades to filter the summer sun but allow solar gain in the winter. To the north will be the Large and Small Board Rooms, able to be joined together for larger meetings and general elections. Along the east wall of the lobby will be the Town Clerk’s and Treasurer’s Offices. The clerks’ office will have bank teller type windows with side screens for privacy and the treasurer’s office will have a dedicated counter area for privacy. There will be a cross corridor leading to the public rest rooms, elevator and the side entrance. The lobby area will be securable from the rest of the building functions so that the board rooms and lobby will be available to the library and other community groups whenever the rooms are not scheduled for town business use and during off hours. For special events, the rest rooms will be open on weekends. Upstairs will be the Town Manager’s Offices, listers, zoning and planning and support spaces.
Energy efficient and sustainable design elements planned include: durable and low maintenance materials on the exterior and interior; passive solar orientation, exterior sun shades over windows, roof and electrical infrastructure designed to accommodate possible photovoltaic panels; super insulated and tight walls and roof (minimum 30 percent above code); electric car charging stations; LED lighting with occupancy and day-lighting controls; high efficiency heat pumps for heating and cooling, and waste heat capture on mechanical and plumbing systems.
First floor plan for proposed new Middlebury town office.
Nightime view of the proposed Middlebury town office at the traffic circle.
Second floor plan for proposed new Middlebury town office.
Outside of the new Middlebury town office as conceived by an architect.
Basement floor plan for proposed new Middlebury town office.