Hospice’s new building one step closer to realization

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

The Big Bend Hospice, Inc., (BBH) is one step closer to realization of the new office building that it plans to build at the corner of North Jefferson and Madison Streets, thanks to its recent receipt of a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Monticello Historic Design Review Board (HDRB) issued the certificate on Thursday, Dec. 19, based on its review of BBH's design plans for the construction. Michael Eurich, director of strategic initiatives and public policy for the BBH, made the presentation on behalf of his organization.
The property, formerly the site of an 1800s Victorian home that was destroyed in an early 2000s fire, is in the city's designated historic district, which explains the need for the certificate. That's because, any construction or renovations must receive the approval of the HDRB to ensure that the new or renovated structure is consistent with the district's character.
Eurich told the board that the proposed building represented a year's worth of planning, that it took into account the neighborhood's architecture styles and that it fitted into the scope of the other structures in the area.
Big Bend Hospice, he said, was looking to establish a permanent footprint in Monticello. And although the property was zoned single-family residential, it had an overlay of commercial use, he said.
The building's design plans show it to be of 2,357 sq. feet in area, with a covered porch, hardie-board siding and a shingled roof. The interior will consist of seven offices, work and counseling areas and a conference room, among other space.
The structure will sit on the same location on the property as the previous historic house. Eurich said the remainder of the lot would be landscaped, and the required retention pond would be sloped and of minimum depth.
“We're going for low maintenance and durability,” he said, adding that the generator and trash bin would be enclosed so as to make them invisible from the street.
The only expressed questions and concerns came from a neighboring property owner and board member Sarah Kirsch.
The neighbor was concerned that runoff from the property would run into her yard. Eurich assured the individual that the project was required by law to mitigate any runoff water issues. The board chairman moreover pointed out that runoff was not within his group's purview.
“That's a civil engineering issue, not a design issue,” Charles Davis said.
Kirsch questioned aesthetics and historical compatibility of the structure, comparing it to a 1990s Key West professional building.
“It looks austere,” Kirsch said.
She had concerns about the shingled roof and sterile looking railings, among other things.
“I would prefer an actual tile or metal roof because it's more authentic,” Kirsch said. “The building as it is doesn't have a lot of charm. It looks austere.”
A metal roof, she said, would also last longer, possibly up to 40 years. Saving BBH a considerable sum in the long run.
“I'm concerned,” Kirsch said. “I see this as a cost factor for the Big Bend Hospice down the line.”
Eurich said a metal roof had been part of the original design. A tin roof, however, would cost $20,000 more than a shingled roof, he said. Given that construction of the building was a community effort that was being financed via fundraising, he said the organization had opted for the less costly choice.
“We wanted to be conservative,” Eurich said. “The more costs involved, the longer it takes to get the building up.”
Besides, he added, they had looked around at the properties immediately neighboring the site and all had shingled roofs.
Eurich told the board it would probably take another six weeks to complete the architectural plans. Then would follow the Local Planning Agency City Council reviews and the permitting, he said.
“We may be looking at something in March,” Eurich said. “But no later than April, depending on the fundraising effort.”
In response to another question from Kirsch, he didn't dismiss the possibility of adding solar panels to the facility in the future.
And in response to a question from a neighboring property owner, he offered assurance that the facility would only be used as an office.
“We won't treat patients there,” Eurich said. “There is no clinical or medical treatments that will be occurring in the building. It will be strictly an operational office.”
The HDRB voted unanimously to approve the certificate.
An advisory board, the seven-member HDRB is responsible for making recommendations to the City Council on inclusion of historic properties into the historic district and nominations to the National Register, as well as reviewing applications for existing historic property structure alterations, proposed new development within the Historic District and proposed demolitions of historic district buildings.
Monticello's Historic District is the third oldest in Florida, with many of its structures listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places.