Design plans for Roth Building get approval

Palo Alto History Museum to begin rehabilitation of historic building this summer

Plans to open the Palo Alto History Museum at the historic Roth Building at 300 Homer Ave. ramped up Wednesday (Feb. 16) when the city's Historic Resources Board unanimously approved design plans for the building's rehabilitation.

"Palo Alto History Museum sees this as an opportunity to fulfill a longtime need in Palo Alto for a local history museum," museum president Steve Staiger said, adding that Palo Alto is one of the few cities without such a museum.

The historical rehabilitation planned by San Francisco-based architect Michael Garavaglia will include a 1,462-foot addition to the 19,182-foot building built by Palo Alto architect Birge Clark in 1932.

The Historic Resources Board was the first of two official approvals the project received this week. On Thursday morning, the Architectural Review Board added its own endorsement when it unanimously gave the building's proposed design a green light. Its approval came with a few conditions, including ones relating to building signage and to public access to the building's restroom and cafe.

Among plans described at the Wednesday meeting of the historical board are a pair of two-story additions to the south-facing rear of the building. These upgrades will provide more gallery space and a more pleasing view from adjacent Heritage Park, and will be painted to differentiate new design elements from the building's original features, Garavaglia said.

"This is not a heavy-handed design project," he said.

Board members imposed three conditions on the project, voicing concerns about a planned front gate, a not-yet-commissioned exterior mural (not the historical Art Deco mural that decorates the interior), and proposed locations for air-conditioning units and an electrical transformer.

Community members and local business Menlo Equities expressed gratitude that renovation efforts will improve the site that has been vacant for a decade.

"We are just delighted that something is to be done, and we can't think of better neighbors. This is just a wonderful addition to our community and our neighborhood," Channing Avenue resident Chet Frankenfield said.

The board approved waiving parking requirements for the historic site, which cannot accommodate on-site parking. Free city parking approximately 700 feet from the museum's future site will be available to museum visitors. Museum staff said they will work with the Public Works Department to address parking by designating the surrounding block of all-day street parking limited to two-hour parking.

"I can imagine where these people (displaced by the change) will park: in the national registered historical district," concerned resident Ken Alsman said.

Board Chair David Bower echoed Alsman's concerns but said addressing parking congestion falls outside of the purview of the Historical Resources Board.

Staiger projected the Palo Alto History Museum will begin construction this summer and occupy the building next year.

Related materials:

Group seeks to bring Palo Alto history to life

VIDEO: A tour of the proposed Palo Alto History Museum

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Like this comment
Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:59 am

I hope that they do devote a section to Fritz Roth- a truly exceptional man, doctor, friend and fervant backer of Stanford Athletics. He took great care of me whenI was at Stanford competing in Rugby and football,and after graduation also. His nurse- Nicky Farmer was a real jewel also.

Like this comment
Posted by Bad-Idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

This is a bad idea. There just isn't enough history here in Palo Alto to justify this sort of expense. It's only a matter of time before there will be demands made on the taxpayers to provide money to operate, or maintain, this building, in one way or another. This site also will not pay property taxes, so it will be asked for an indirect subsidy for everything from fire/police protection, to the Staff services that have been dedicated to the project in the past.

> Fritz Roth

It's unlikely that one Palo Altan in a hundred has ever heard of this person.

Given the massive impact on the future that the technology companies have played in the near past, it would have made more sense to try to put together a state-of-the-art virtual museum that embraced more than the very obscure Palo Altans that most have never known.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

To Mr./Ms. "Bad-Idea" who complains that "It's unlikely that one Palo Altan in a hundred has ever heard of this person."

The Museum is especially important for you and others who may think we don't have any history worth knowing about. Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. museums are no substitute.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

Given its proximity to Whole Foods, it seems a natural to have WF run the cafe as a public service with the PAHM providing volunteer staffing.

As to "Bad-Idea" - I concur with the sentiments of "neighbor" in so far as you will benefit most from learning about the history of Palo Alto.

I hope the cafe will have views of the park with some outdoor seating.

Like this comment
Posted by neighborhood resident
a resident of University South
on Feb 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I love the idea of this museum and think it will be lovely having the rest of that block utilized... BUT - I would really rather they not change the area to two hour parking. The parking can be tight in the area on weekdays due to all the folks working downtown who park there and walk in -- but on weekends it's pretty easy peasy. I don't think the museum will be enough of a draw to substantially change that - and after spending a decade living in several different cities on streets with 1 or 2 hour parking -- I hate it! It is an endless hassle of keeping your vehicles' parking stickers up to date and having to shoo friends / guests / family out to move their cars every 2 hours when they are visiting.


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