The Pavilion at 3 North

Project Description

Background:  This former fruit packing warehouse located in downtown Healdsburg elicits mixed reactions from its citizens, largely due its unique faux masonry façade. The City of Healdsburg asked the design team to explore the possibility of a new use for the building in order to allow it to evaluate whether the building should be demolished or repurposed. An extensive public participatory process during schematic design lasted two years, and yielded an unexpected result.

Building History: The building was constructed in 1922 and is characterized by its unique metal façade, its delicate roof trusses, and its location along the rail line that runs through the middle of town. The building was originally a fruit packing warehouse, and later saw duty during prohibition as a shipping center for “juice” grapes. The City’s Redevelopment Agency later acquired the property with the objective of demolishing the building in order to provide much needed downtown parking. When plans came forward for demolition of the structure, the community strongly objected to the loss of a building that epitomized Healdsburg’s agrarian roots.

Design Exploration:  The City asked the design team to explore design options as varied as reuse, replacement, and demolition to make room for parking. Scenarios retaining or replacing the building would serve as many functions as possible including parking, the twice weekly Healdsburg Farmer’s Market, concerts, arts & craft fairs, running/cycling events, and fundraising event for local non-profits, taking pressure of the cherished town plaza. Input from multiple community and potential user groups made it clear that reusing the existing building as currently configured would not accommodate all of the desired functions, in large part because the building is elevated more than 3 feet above grade. Three design concepts were developed, two replacing the building with new open canopy structures, and one retaining the existing structure with modifications.

New Direction:  With the community divided on whether to save or repurpose the building, the design team originated a fourth concept that proposed to dismantle and reconstruct the front half of the existing structure so that the parking, farmers market, and other functions could be at grade. The rear of the structure would be preserved at its original, elevated height, and would serve as a semi-enclosed event center. In combination with the parking area this semi-enclosed area would be capable of accommodating events with as many as 1,000 people. Additionally, the elevated area could function as a standalone venue, as a stage, or as a viewing platform to below, with an informal stepped seating area located between the two levels. The original roof trusses would be preserved, with vining plants to provide shade. The front façade material would be replaced with multiple layers of wire mesh in order to “ghost” the original façade while allowing a closer connection to the streetscape.

Resolution: The community quickly rallied around this concept and the Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council agreed as well that this was the best approach. Forward progress has been delayed while the City searches for funding.

Design Challenge

The fundamental challenge was to work with multiple constituencies to forge a consensus on how to redevelop this property, and whether to save the building. This included the exploration of multiple design concepts, as well as the most likely building uses. Stakeholder groups included the Board of Directors of the Farmers Market, the Friends of the Market, the arts community, and the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce, the business community and others. Other key players included several City agencies including the Tourism Bureau, as well as the Design Review Board, Planning Commission, and City Council. Stakeholder groups and individuals in the community were initially sharply divided on whether the building was an amenity or eyesore, the stamped metal faux-masonry façade being the main bone of contention. The City Redevelopment Agency had acquired the property with the provision that it be used for public parking. But the City was also interested in providing an event venue to relieve the overuse of Healdsburg Square, just two blocks away. The Farmers Market was always a central focus of the project, but the Farmers Market remained skeptical of the functionality of the site for their needs due to the building being on an elevated plinth, and hence not easily accessible. City representatives and the design team met with each stakeholder group multiple times, resulting in a 2 year-long process in the attempt to achieve a consensus. The design team was asked to develop three distinct design schemes (in addition to the option of replacing the building with parking). One scheme repurposed the building, and the other two replaced the building with new canopies. However, there was no consensus on any particular scheme; the different interest groups favored different solutions. It was clear that another design solution was needed in order to gain consensus and avoid the building’s demolition to make way for parking. In the eleventh hour the design team was resolved to retain the character of the building while overcoming concerns about the elevated plinth. The front portion of the building would be disassembled, salvaging the roof trusses. That portion of the building’s plinth would be removed, allowing for a continuous ground plane that provided adequate space for both parking and the Farmers Market. The structural skeleton of the deconstructed portion of the building would then be reassembled. The faux-masonry façade panels would be replaced with multiple layers of wire mesh recalling the original façade while allowing transparency between the building shell and the streetscape. The Farmers Market was now onboard, but concerned about adequacy of space during peak season. This was addressed by the design team’s suggestion that the street be closed to accommodate overflow for this and other events, further creating a festive atmosphere. This concept was supported by City staff and embraced by the community. What could have been a compromise – or a parking lot, instead became a very different idea, one that was embraced by each of the public interest groups as well as the City.

Physical Context

This project’s surroundings are rich and varied. The design incorporates surrounding spaces differently depending upon type of event: Streetscape Picnic tables between the sidewalk and the now-transparent facade allow for use of the streetscape during events. As a parking venue the area between the building and sidewalk functions independently as an urban picnic area in support of the many take-out opportunities nearby. Street During larger events the street provides overflow space, particularly for the Farmers Market during peak season. The street can be closed to through traffic without restricting access to any other parcels. Foss Creek / Native Plants Park The immediate adjacency to a City Park and Foss Creek made the site the ideal location for an event venue, and developed the park to be enjoyed by those attending events at the facility. Railroad: The adjacent railroad tracks will be placed back into service when the SMART Train (regional railroad) expands. Although the Healdsburg station is planned to be built several blocks away many believe that this public venue would be its most logical location, a natural extension of the railroad’s role this warehouse building’s history.