First drafts of Middlebury town offices, rec center are floated

MIDDLEBURY — A Middlebury committee that is planning for a new municipal building and recreation center got its first look last week at some conceptual designs of how those structures might be massed.
It was on Oct. 1 that the Town Offices and Recreation Center Steering Committee got a chance to review the preliminary building sketches, prepared by Bread Loaf Corp. Current plans call for the new town offices to be built in place of the current Osborne House at 77 Main St., while the recreation center would be erected on school lands off Mary Hogan Drive.
Both plans have already generated their share of support and criticism. The current town offices and municipal gym are located at the intersection of South Main and College streets. Middlebury College has offered $5.5 million in assistance to help further the two building projects, in exchange for the current town offices/gym site. The town would clear the site, which the college would then turn into a park.
Some local residents have opposed relocating the town offices and gym, arguing that they should be rebuilt at the current site. Others have given high marks to the plans and the prospect of receiving assistance from the college. The Middlebury selectboard hopes to put a proposal before the voters sometime this December.
In the meantime, Bread Loaf will work with local officials to design building plans to meet the community’s needs. Chris Huston, architecture operations manager for Bread Loaf, shared some of the latest draft plans:
Bread Loaf last week presented two conceptual designs of how a building could be sited at the Osborne House site. Both plans, according to Huston, reflect two-story buildings, each at 9,500 square feet, with no basement.
One of the plans shows an elbow-shaped municipal building that fronts the Main Street roundabout, hugging the contours of the Main Street-Cross Street intersection. There is a clear separation (and potential shared courtyard) between the new building and the neighboring Ilsley Library, with an allowance for some green space and landscaping behind the structure, which faces a parking area. The first floor would feature a lobby and community meeting rooms and public restrooms, with a second floor devoted to offices.
The second plan depicts an “L”-shaped building set back from the Main Street rotary. A plaza is featured in the crook of the “L,” a place where people could congregate before entering a one-story lobby. The plan shows access to the Ilsley Library from the rear of the town offices building, through what could become a covered walkway.
Both building plans, Huston stressed, are oriented in a way to maximize exposure to the sun. The plans also provide some on-site parking, but anticipate people will use other nearby spots — particularly at the current municipal building site.
“All of the parking at the existing municipal building site would remain public parking,” Huston noted.
“The town will be assigning spaces and monitoring them.”
People who listened to the town offices plans at the steering committee’s Oct. 1 meeting commented that it would perhaps be better to connect the new building with the library at the second or third floor level; that the library’s future space needs are not being adequately addressed; and that the proposal should be fielded by voters next year, instead of this December.
Bread Loaf last week unveiled five possible siting options for a new recreation center near the Mary Hogan Elementary School campus. Huston noted the steering committee overwhelmingly took a shining to “option five,” which keeps the current playing fields intact.
It’s a plan that features, among other things:
•  An 11,400-square-foot, one-story building dominated by a large gymnasium. The facility would be located just west of the municipal tennis courts and would be visible from Court Street, according to Huston.
•  A separate drop-off circle, so as not to encourage drop-offs at the nearby, already busy Mary Hogan School.
•  Designated areas for the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department offices; storage; multi-purpose room (that could accommodate the Russ Sholes Senior Center); changing rooms and restrooms; and a “quiet studio” space for yoga, martial arts and other activities.
Huston stressed the gym would be used for basketball, as well as other activities.
“We are essentially replicating the program that now exists (at the municipal gum) and bringing it over to this new site,” Huston said.
Option five also includes:
•  An Addison Central Teens (ACT) center that would be relocated to the current warming hut facility near the Memorial Sports Center.
•  The possibility for inclusion of a turf playing field.
•  An eventual “phase II” project focusing on a new parking scheme for the Mary Hogan School that would create blocks of horizontal spots — instead of the current diagonal spots — that organizers believe could reduce the risk of fender-benders with traffic flowing through the lot. The new scheme also depicts a separate parents’ drop-off for children, distinct from the school bus drop-off, Huston noted.
People who viewed the recreation center plans at the steering committee’s Oct. 1 meeting shared a variety of comments and concerns, including skepticism that the senior center should be sited in a multi-purpose room; that the proposed reconfiguring of the Mary Hogan School lot should occur in concert with the building project and not as a second phase; and that the warming hut might not be large enough to host the teen center.
These plans are slated to be discussed in further detail at a progress meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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