The Block Island Times
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Housing Board interviews architects for housing project

By Gloria S. Redlich | Aug 15, 2013

Cindy Pappas announced at the Block Island Housing Board meeting on Aug. 7 that the group had recently interviewed four architects to design a new affordable housing project for plat 14, lot 55.

Those being considered are: Diane Boston, Doug Gilpin, Frank Karpowicz and Arlene Tunney. Pappas said all had expressed interest in the venture. Board member John Spier, who recused himself from direct discussion of the architects and of the specifics of selection, was allowed to be present for general discussion.

Asked for a recap of the interviews, board member Kay McManus said, “It was an interesting group. Each has a different style of presentation.” She added that two were “from the island and two off.” The next step, she said, would be to write a proposal to each of them asking for their responses.

Pappas commented that the interviews had been more “meet and greet” sessions, with which the applicants appeared comfortable and well prepared. Presenting their resumes and coming with a great deal of information, she said, they had clearly “thought about the project and thought about it conceptually.” She added the board was just “trying to get a sense of their work.”

The next step in the procedure, Pappas explained, would be either to narrow down the number of applicants immediately or request proposals from each, the latter of which the group agreed to do. She said, “If we request proposals, they should [address] a uniform set of parameters we’re asking for.”

When Spier asked whether or not the candidates ought to “cite building layout in their presentations,” Pappas responded that once an architect was selected, there would be time “to brainstorm around this table — the architect coming up with something we can embrace.” She felt it would be important to “try to come to a consensus with the Planning Board” early in the process.

After that, she said the group “might go for a duplex, plus three of the same houses [with some variations].” McManus suggested there were a number of ways to “flip designs to vary designs.” Pappas agreed, noting however that a great deal of variation would involve “a lot of work” and extra expense.

Some discussion ensued about whether or not to have a basement, a walk-out basement or whether it should be finished, causing Pappas to comment, “A basement is a basement, is a basement.” She added no matter how “you dress it up, it’s still a basement.”

Spier thought the “building envelope should contain a garage,” and McManus wanted an unheated storage unit or utility room.

In crafting a proposal to the candidates, Pappas summarized the mission: “I think we should thank them for their interest and ask them to bear in mind we are building affordable structures to be constructed efficiently and affordably.”

“We got a sense of who they were, where they’re coming from in terms of style and creativity; we believe all of them can do the work,” Millie McGinnes said. “And they certainly all had passionate interests.”

After a bit more discussion, the group appointed Pappas and McManus to serve as a subcommittee for drafting a letter to the architects, after which they would have two weeks to respond. A short discussion followed over the possibilities of a cluster design versus a flexible design.

Accounting and survey

In her financial report, Bonny Ryan said that board assets were strong, noting an account balance of $104,126.30.

Member Shane Howrigan reviewed a survey that had been sent out to owners of affordable housing units around the island. Asking for a breakdown of yearly costs of utilities, the range for electricity was generally between $600 and $3,000; for oil between $700 and $3,000 and for propane between $200 and $2,500.

Though for most people these costs were higher than expected, most also agreed they were manageable. Most homeowners agreed they were “happy with the quality of [their] house.” Asked what changes they might have made in the process of purchasing their homes, some people said they would have liked more choice in the design and others wished the process hadn’t involved so much waiting.

Addressing a question of whether or not people wished their homeowner’s association to have more authority to govern and issue fines, most said they agreed the association should have more authority.

While several board members thought that enforcement of these issues would be difficult, Patty Murphy felt that fines could be issued. She said she spoke from the perspective of a homeowner.

As to outcomes, most respondents agreed it was good to be a year-round, permanent homeowner, while a few wished they’d had a better idea of costs.

Responses to a question about the types of future projects people would like to see included providing more affordable housing for island workers, for singles and for island families. As to design, respondents were looking for a broad range of possibilities from duplex or town house style family homes to homes spaced farther apart.

The next meeting was set for Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.

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