Orangetown Debates New Town Hall

Demolition & Replacement Appear Top Choice

BY ROBERET KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

Orangetown officials have reviewed preliminary plans for a new town hall submitted by five architectural, engineering and planning firms, and are now trying to decide which of several concept proposals they like the best to replace the town’s current dilapidated 55-year-old structure in Orangeburg.

A consensus of the five-member board appears to show a preference for demolishing the existing 1961 structure at the corner of Orangeburg Road and Dutch Hill Road South, leaving the attached newer police station and courthouse structure intact, and replacing the old municipal building with a larger new structure on the same site.

The council initially invited 19 professional firms to submit informal proposals. After receiving responses of interest from about a dozen, the board met with each and reviewed their submissions; eventually narrowing the field down to five they felt merited further investigation. Four of those firms presented their ideas last month and the fifth, headed by local architect Jan Degenshein, appeared before the board two weeks ago.

Principals of the five firms gave similar input to the board, saying they had inspected the current facilities and came to nearly identical conclusions.

The existing Town Hall, built in 1960 and opened the following year, is seriously deteriorated and inadequate for today’s space and operational needs, the professionals agreed.

The newer police station and courthouse next door are in excellent condition by contrast, they added, and contain sufficient space to meet both current and future operational needs. As such, they should be retained and continued in their present uses.

The five firms queried the board as to their preference of leaving the police\court facility where it is and rebuilding a new town hall adjacent to it, or constructing the new town hall office building on land elsewhere, such as the nearby Rockland Psychiatric Center campus which Orangetown owns.

The answer was quick and emphatic with all five council members saying they preferred consolidating as many town offices as possible in a single location, rather than further fracturing municipal government among several locations.

The response from the interested firms, who are vying for a contract to design the new facilities, was equally as quick and emphatic.

The existing two-story town hall should be demolished, they all agreed, and a new two or three-story building constructed on the same site, adjacent to the police station and courthouse.

At the same time parking should be increased on the site, they recommended, either by constructing a two-story parking garage or paving land that is now lawn on the east side of the building, fronting Dutch Hill Road South opposite the Orangeburg Fire House. The lawn paving would provide an additional 56 parking spaces, far more than would be lost by new construction on the other side of the lot.

In discussions between the board members and the prospective designers it was agreed that the ideal solution would end up as a single building containing all offices and facilities now at the site in addition to those currently housed in the town-owned former Greenbush Elementary School two blocks away on Greenbush Road.

That structure, currently shared with the Orangeburg Public Library and the Camp Shanks Museum, contains the building department, code enforcement and fire safety offices and the town’s four land-use boards, including Planning, Zoning, Architectural and Landscape and Historical Review.

Departments that would remain decentralized include the highway and sewer departments, currently on adjacent sites off Route 303 on land formerly used as an Army missile base; and the parks and recreation department, currently split between a small 200-year-old house at Veterans Memorial Park and vehicle, maintenance and storage facilities at multiple locations.

While council members have not yet indicated a preference for any of the five follow-up contestants, they did express gratitude to the Musial Group of Mountainside, N.J. for being the only bidder to submit actual concept drawings of what a potential new town hall would look like, and cost estimates for constructing it.

The firm estimated they could design a new 13,000-square-foot structure immediately to the west of the existing town hall, to replace the current 12,500-square-foot structure. The new town hall would cost about $12 million to construct, they estimated.

After offices are moved into the new building the current building next door could then be demolished for about $350,000, they estimated. If the council wanted more room for future expansion or inclusion of additional offices, a similar 12,000 to 13,000-square-foot building could also be built on the footprint of the demolished structure next door, giving a unified appearance to the entire structure from Orangeburg Road.

An alternative that would yield the same 50,000-square-foot total of new space but at a lower cost, the Musical Group said, would be to gut the existing town hall after the addition is constructed, and then rehabilitating the old framework with a matching new building.

In addition to the Musial Group and Degenshein the other finalists still in the running to design a new town hall include RBA Engineers and Architects, Environetics and the McLaren Group and Poskanzer Skott Architects of Ridgewood, N.J.

Board members instructed each of the five to submit final presentations, including potential designs and cost estimates, as soon as possible.

After reviewing the submissions, the board anticipates awarding   contract to one of the firms in the next month or two.