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.