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May 2, 2012 10:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village Plans To Renovate Vacant Parrish Building

May 2, 2012 10:59 AM

The decision by Bay Street Theatre officials to stay in Sag Harbor, at least for the time being, has given Southampton Village a “little bit of breathing room” in efforts to renovate the old Parrish Art Museum, according to Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley.

Before Bay Street Theatre’s landlord, Patrick Malloy III, agreed last week to allow the theater to stay on Long Wharf for as long as the next 10 years, the Parrish building—which will be vacant next fall when the museum moves to its new home currently under construction in Water Mill—was at the top of the list of possible new homes for the theater company. But the surprise move last week left village officials wondering who would eventually occupy the space.

Any renovations to the Jobs Lane building—now being called the Southampton Center for the Arts—would have been done in preparation for Bay Street moving in. Now, with no anchor tenant lined up, renovations of the century-old building can be a little more relaxed once the Parrish Art Museum relocates in the fall.

Mayor Epley said that while he is disappointed that it doesn’t look like the theater will be moving into the building any time soon, the vacancy would give the village and the Founders Committee, a group Mayor Epley set up to help shape the scope of the building’s future, more planning time.

“If Bay Street is one of the partners we work with in the future, it will be something that will be well planned out,” he said. Knowing that Bay Street Theatre board members are still considering other options for a permanent home, Mayor Epley said he will keep pushing to bring the theater to Jobs Lane.

“The deal doesn’t resolve their long-term goals,” he said of Bay Street Theatre’s new lease agreement. “It’s still an organization that struggles financially. A partnership with Southampton would be very strong.”

Built in 1897 to house Samuel Parrish’s collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and 19th-century plaster casts, the Jobs Lane structure underwent three phases of construction, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, through 1913, when it was expanded to its present-day cross shape. In the 1950s, an addition of vault and office spaces were added to the northwest corner, which completed the present-day structure’s form, encompassing 17,000 square feet on a property just under 3 acres.

According to Mayor Epley, the Parrish building has been in need of renovation for decades. The Parrish Art Museum initially thought renovations would be part of an expansion, but the Parrish ultimately did not sink money into a building it planned to vacate. The village has already repaired one of two concrete fountains and is currently preparing for several other upgrades.

Mayor Epley said that the roof needed replacing 25 years ago and has since only received patchwork. Heating, cooling and electrical systems also need an overhaul.

“We’re in the process of finding an architect for restoration, and we’ll have to get funding,” Mayor Epley said. “That’s my goal—to have it privately funded.”

According to Tom Knight, president of the Southampton Cultural Center and a member of the Founders Committee, the focus now is to plan and prepare for the renovation and do some fundraising.

“We’ve got plenty of work to do on our hands,” he said. “It’s interesting and challenging, like creating a start-up company.”

With business in mind, Mayor Epley wants to find a way to create activity at the site while restoration is under way. “The one common denominator we’ve received from merchants and residents is that they don’t want it to be a dead spot,” he said. “They can’t afford it, and the village can’t afford not to restore the building.”

He said that village officials are working on plans for a covered, outdoor pavilion on the property that could act as an operation center for activities while the building is being worked on.

Since the Southampton Center of the Arts will be a multidisciplinary artistic venue, a wide range of events are planned to take place inside and outside of the building.

Mayor Epley said that planners have looked at a variety of programs, from “Jazz at Lincoln Center” performances to debate forums hosted by ABC. He said that exhibits and organizations that don’t have a home in Southampton have also popped up in discussions, such as the Hamptons International Film Festival and various artwork from Guild Hall in East Hampton.

“I never put all my eggs in the Bay Street basket,” Mayor Epley said, but added, “A theater component is something I want to see on that property.”

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