FARMINGTON — News that a 100-plus-year-old tree would be saved and remain where it is near the town library drew applause from people at a public hearing Monday on the proposed Emery Community Arts Center.

More than 50 people attended the Farmington Planning Board’s hearing on the center, most ready to speak, many opposed, at the Municipal Building. Concerns had been previously raised by Farmington Public Library trustees, Farmington Historical Society and the Maine Historical Preservation Commission on the proposed building.

But questions were limited after the announcement that University of Maine at Farmington had the design revamped for the proposed center in the last nine days.

UMF President Theo Kalikow said a lot has changed since a site walk in late July.

“We listened to everything everyone said,” she said.

Even if the university went through the process with the design presented earlier and got all the approvals, Kalikow said, UMF would lose “because the resulting Emery Arts Center has to be welcoming to the community.”

The new design will still honor Ted and Marguerite Emery’s wishes, Kalikow said. The couple left the university $5 million to build an art center to be shared with the university and the public.

There would be no contemporary glass facade that would encompass the north portion of UMF’s Alumni Hall bringing the structure closer to the Farmington Public Library and UMF’s Merrill Hall, architect Scott Slarksy said.

Instead, the arts center would be built to the right side of Alumni Theater, looking at it from Academy Street, and would be a wood structure that is longer and narrower, Slarsky said. It would have very limited structural glass and it would have white clapboards. Bricks and other masonry material would be cost-prohibitive to the project, he said.

Entry would be gained under a small canopy into an upper lobby from the so-called art quad, which is currently a parking lot for Merrill Hall and Alumni Theater. There is a new entry at the lower lobby very near the parking lot behind the Psychology Building and Brinkman House.

It would be contiguous to the theater and run parallel to it, behind the side of Merrill Hall. Fire truck access would be improved with the courtyard/art quad.

After questions were answered, both Farmington Public Library Trustee President Juanita Bean Smith and Farmington Historical Society President Taffy Davis thanked the university for changing the design.

Davis said she would like to reserve final statement until the Maine Historical Preservation Commission reviews the plans, but said it is a “big step in the right direction.”

Planning Board members voted to hold a site walk at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, prior to their next meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14, at the Municipal Building.

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