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Nov 18, 2008 9:22 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton North Main Street proposed building stirs controversy

Nov 18, 2008 9:22 AM

When architect Paul Masi and attorney Jonathan Tarbet went looking to buy a site where they could build their offices, they picked a spot at 132 N. Main Street in East Hampton, where there is an old house being used for offices. The site, between Nick and Toni’s Restaurant and Hudson City Savings Bank, was perfect, they thought—not too far from their homes in Springs, in a neighborhood with restaurants, a bank, a grocery store and other services within walking distance. The old house would be torn down.

Two years later, with a design ready for a two-story “green” modern office building, they couldn’t have imagined the controversy it would cause. Despite the protests, which include a petition signed by more than 500 opponents, they plan to move ahead with their plans.

Two weeks ago, at an Architectural Review Board hearing on the proposal, several residents spoke, saying the building was all wrong for the neighborhood, that there was no place for a modern, box-like office building in the area. The opponents included East Hampton attorney Jeffrey Bragman, who has been hired by opponents.

“They didn’t want any change and they wanted the building to look like a house,” said Mr. Tarbet last week in a telephone interview.

About 28 residents at the hearing, including several architects, did speak in support of the project, Mr. Tarbet said. The Planning Board has also received 30 letters in support of the project and 11 in opposition.

The building has been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which encourages global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices. LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance, energy-efficient buildings.

The rectangular building features large glass windows in the front, with cedar shingling siding around the sides and back. It will contain Mr. Masi and Mr. Tarbet’s office on the second floor and retail space on the first floor. It will contain 4,673 square feet of gross floor area on a lot of about a half acre.

The “green” aspects of the building include a geothermal heating and cooling system that will use groundwater underneath the building to heat and cool it so no oil or gas is required, Mr. Masi said. The flat roof will have local vegetation growing on it, which he said will help cool the building in summer and hold the heat in the winter. It also makes the roof last longer, he said.

“There will be a habitat for birds and a whole little ecosystem up there,” Mr. Masi said.

The cedar wood shingled siding is to be held on by clips instead of nails, so rather than having to replace the siding someday, the shingles can be turned over and rotated around the building.

The parking lot, rather than asphalt, will be a pervious parking system, with stone to filter the water beneath the parking lot so that the water is pure when it goes into the ground, he said. It will have the appearance of a gravel driveway.

The outside of the building will be landscaped with local, self-sustaining plants, so that an irrigation system will not be needed, he said.

The design for the building has won two awards, Mr. Masi said—one the 2008 American Institute of Architects Peconic Chapter merit award and one from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This is a small building—smaller than the bank next door, smaller than the IGA and the occupants would be John and myself and maybe one other tenant,” Mr. Masi said. “We think of ourselves as showing East Hampton that you can do an environmentally responsible building.”

Mr. Masi, co-owner of Bates Masi Architects, said he consulted with other architects in his firm on the project and with Bob Hefner, the local and historical consultant, whom he said has approved of the plans.

“When we started this building, we met with the Planning Board and presented them with three options for the footprinting and the parking. They picked one option and we are going with that,” Mr. Masi added.

In response to criticism that the building doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood, Mr. Masi said the neighborhood is already mixed with different kinds of architecture. “It’s a very healthy neighborhood” in its imperfection, he said. He does not think the area is historically significant.

Mr. Masi, of Springs, attended Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. for his bachelor of arts degree and received a bachelor of science degree at the University College of London in England. After school, Mr. Masi worked for New York architect Richard Meier. After that, he went to Harvard for his master’s in architecture. In 1998, he joined Harry Bates and they created the firm of Bates Masi, which is currently in Sag Harbor. His parents had a house in Montauk and he spent every summer there while he was growing up. He is married and has three children.

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