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Jun 2, 2015 1:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Designer Lee Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership To Design Montauk Playhouse

Members of the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation with designer and architect Lee Skolnick (holding a book) inside the playhouse, where they plan to construct an aquatic center and cultural arts center. SHAYE WEAVER
Jun 11, 2015 11:07 AM

The Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation has selected Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership to plan and design its new $7 million aquatic and cultural arts centers, hoping to impress with a design that would marry Montauk’s vibe with the center’s programming.

Lee Skolnick + Design Partnership has designed award-winning facilities for Guild Hall in East Hampton Village, the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, and the East Hampton Library.

“They start with a personal relationship, and their work makes you smile and makes you feel good,” said Tom Griffin, a member of the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation. “It won’t be a stuffy, historical building inside a classic shell. It will be something that will really knock your socks off and makes you feel like this is a place you want to come back to again and again.”

The Playhouse cultural center is envisioned as a 6,500-square-foot meeting room that could be used for car and boat shows, theater-in-the-round events, concerts, festivals, fitness programs, arts and crafts shows, receptions, and business meetings.

The aquatic center would be placed on the building’s second floor, since the 3,000-square-foot pool is small enough to not require water storage tanks underneath it. It would be 5 feet deep and 25 yards long.

The pool would have two sections: one for swimming laps, and the other a warm-water wellness pool for aerobics, strength exercise and other uses. The wellness pool would slope down so users could walk in and use a seat to lower themselves into the pool. Users would also have access to a hot tub.

The Montauk Playhouse has the only full-sized public gymnasium in the hamlet, and it is also home to a child care center, a senior nutrition center, recreational activities, and facilities for physical fitness and physical therapy.

Mr. Skolnick last week said he envisions people who enter the space having a “celebratory experience,” but could not get into the specifics of the design.

“People should feel great about coming into this place,” he said. “It has to have a unique character. The building has tremendous surpassing character when you walk inside that you have to capitalize on as an architect. There is a vast volume of space and natural light—a godsend for any public building. We want you to experience all that in everything you do.”

Paul Alter, Mr. Skolnick’s business partner, said the goal is to marry the Playhouse’s programming and the unique features of the building by using the features to benefit the people who use the space.

“At the end of the day, it will be a strong, successful marriage of space and celebration and elation,” he said. “It’s a nice poetic match of people, activities and services, and a nice synergy between saving a nice piece of architecture and giving it new life.”

When Carl Fisher built the Montauk Playhouse, it was the fashionable place to be for tennis enthusiasts, and it was used later as an assembly hall for soldiers during World War II. During the 1960s, it was used as a movie house.

But in the early 1970s, it closed and for many years sat empty. To revive the building, the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation was formed in 1999 and worked with the Town of East Hampton to revamp the old building. In 2006, it reopened in its current form, following a $6 million restoration bond authorized by the Town Board to turn it into a community center. It operates an adult day care program, a nutrition center for seniors, a fitness and a physical therapy center.

Just more than $2 million has been raised for the $7 million project. The foundation could not say when they expect the project to be completed.

Mr. Skolnick said his firm is excited about the design.

“The critical thing for us is really the nature of this project and what it can do for the community, which makes us get up in the morning and attracted us so strongly to the project,” he said. “It was the passion of the community to do something above and beyond requirements and to take something, which has great programs, but make it into something the community can feel great about. It’s a celebration of the community itself.”

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