Public meetings on the proposed Emery Community Art Center will take place July 31, Aug. 5 and Aug. 10.

FARMINGTON — The location and design of the proposed Emery Community Arts Center in the town’s historic district has led the Historical Society to voice concerns.

The Farmington Historical Society Board of Trustees said in a letter to the Planning Board this week that while it is not against a community art center, it is not in favor of the proposed location or design, said Taffy Davis, society president.

Trustees are concerned about the contemporary style of
the proposed University of Maine at Farmington art center to be situated between the Farmington Public Library and Merrill Hall.

“The
close proximity to these two buildings does not respect the historical
and cultural impact of these buildings,” Davis said in the letter to
the board.

Designated a contemporary style by the Maine Historic
Preservation Commission, the proposed design does not complement the
style of the library and Merrill Hall, she said.

While the
architect’s plan is designed to “preserve” the facade of Alumni
Theater, Davis questioned whether anything but regular upkeep has been
done to the facade of Merrill Hall in the past 130 years. It’s not
crumbling away.

“That’s the glory of bricks,” she said. “Many of the downtown
buildings included bricks because of the brickyards here and for the
most part, it was fireproof.” 

The town has a fairly large National Historic District, stretching from Abbott Hill up through parts of Main Street to the World War I Arch. Parts of the Anson, Orchard and Perham street areas are in the district, as are Academy Street and High Street as far as College Apartments, Davis said.

About 151 buildings are in the district. Based on architectural style and history, 13 of those — including the library, Merrill Hall and the Old South Congregational Church —
are independently on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, standards for rehabilitation of an historic property require use of similar materials for new additions or exterior changes. Davis urged the board to ensure that new construction in a historic district follows those standards.

A university representative said Thursday that UMF officials had not seen a copy of the Historical Society’s letter sent to the board. After learning of concerns raised by the Farmington Public Library Board this week, the university is asking the architect to explore a design that would be more agreeable, according to President Theodora Kalikow.

The university is offering two more informational sessions for townspeople to learn more about the construction and design of the proposed Emery Community Art Center.

These will take place at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, July 31, and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. Both meetings will be held in Ferro Alumni Center.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed art center at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, at the Municipal Building.

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