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Jul 31, 2008 4:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village considers options for Parrish site

Jul 31, 2008 4:26 PM

The Parrish Art Museum has yet to start construction of its new facility in Water Mill, but Southampton Village officials are already preparing for the museum’s exit, and many organizations are hoping to be the next tenants of the village-owned Parrish facility on Jobs Lane.

Some of the ideas being considered for the future use of the building include continuing its use as a museum, making it the home of a performing arts company or artists’ community, or using it as a new Village Hall. Both Bay Street Theatre and the Hamptons International Film Festival have toured the building and discussed the possibility of using it as a new headquarters.

Whoever the new tenants are, it will be at least a couple more years before they move in. The Parrish is still raising the funds needed to finance construction of its new facility. The museum is conducting an $80 million capital campaign to fund the construction and, as of now, is approaching 50 percent of the way to that goal, Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan said. Once the fund drive reaches 80 percent, the museum will break ground in Water Mill. Completion of the project is expected two years from the start date.

“In this economic climate, I want to make sure we do this right,” Ms. Sultan said, explaining why the Parrish will not move forward until it reaches the 80-percent mark.

Ms. Sultan said there have been rumors that the new museum is postponed or on hold, but that is not the case. Fund-raising and planning continues, she said. “I don’t consider that being on hold, because I’m working hard every day and so is every member of the staff.”

The director said that she cannot predict when the museum’s fund-raising efforts will reach 80 percent of the goal—it could take months, or someone could walk into her office tomorrow with a check for the last 30 percent, she noted.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley predicted it would be five years before the museum leaves Jobs Lane.

In the meantime, the village is considering hiring a consultant to survey residents and determine what the community wants to see the museum facility used for and to make recommendations for optimal tenants. The Village Board issued a request for proposals on June 24, and submissions are due this Friday, August 8. The RFP calls for the selected firm to be notified in September.

This is the second time the village issued the RFP. On the first try, the time for firms to respond was too brief, village grant coordinator Jennifer Mesiano said Tuesday.

At least one consultant has indicated it would respond this time, and there may be more, Ms. Mesiano said, adding, “It’s a unique request, but there are firms that specialize in this.”

Ms. Mesiano said the RFP did not specify a price range, so she could not say how much a consultant may cost. But once the price is known, she said she is hoping the village will get a Suffolk County grant to pay for some or all the costs of the consultant.

Mayor Epley said that once the consulting firm has finished its work, there will be another RFP process for potential tenants to apply, and a committee will evaluate the proposals.

Fiscal viability and ability to fund-raise and attract an audience will all be considered, he said, adding that it will also be important for the tenant to spur activity in the off season—not just the village’s peak in the summer. “Whoever occupies that building is going to have to have long-term sustainability and is going to play a main role in shaping the village over the next 50 to 75 years,” he said.

In just the last five months, he’s heard 15 informal proposals for the use of the facility, the mayor said. He recalled that one pitch was for a toy museum, and he pointed out that both the Sag Harbor performance company Bay Street Theatre and the Hamptons International Film Festival have toured the building to consider moving there. Several times Mayor Epley has indicated that he would love for Bay Street to move in, but the company is staying in Sag Harbor for the time being, with the prospect that Southampton and East Hampton towns could preserve the existing theater in Sag Harbor permanently using Community Preservation Fund revenues.

When Bay Street officials assessed the Parrish facility two years ago, they predicted a need to expand to accommodate the company, Mayor Epley said. Hamptons International Film Festival officials, on the other hand, thought no expansion would be necessary for its needs, he said, explaining that the film festival could use the facility for a base to offer film school classes, workshops, independent film screenings, and to coordinate with Southampton High School and Southampton College.

Developer Sam Cohen is pitching an idea called Southampton WAVE, World Art Village Experiment. He said Tuesday that he envisions a working community of artists-in-residence from all different fields of art—painting, performing arts, new media, etc.—who would put on shows and exhibitions and give back to the community by teaching local students.

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