OTPA Opposes Replacing Historic Watson House With Apartment Buildings:
A proposal to demolish the 75-year-old Watson family home to make way for three new apartment buildings is opposed by the Old Towne Preservation Association and received unfavorable comments from the City’s Design Review Committee at its December meeting. OTPA Preservation Chair Jeff Frankel spoke against the project, as did former Councilman Dan Slater and several irate neighbors, property owners and preservationists.
DRC and OTPA both questioned the accuracy of findings by the developer’s consultant, LSA Associates, to evaluate the property’s historical significance. “LSA dismisses the fact that this home and the Watson family are iconic features of Old Towne history,” said Frankel.
The property adjoins Hart Park and was purchased by Kellar E. Watson, Jr. in 1938. His father was the founder of the famous Watson’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain, the city’s oldest and best known business. The Watson’s were prominent in Old Towne community and civic affairs and ran the drug store until retirement in 1965.
DRC’s very vocal negative reaction to the plan surprised its developer, Guneeta Dang (who is not an Old Towne Orange resident).
Dang asked to meet this week to appeal OTPA's opposition. Held in the offices of Craig Wheeler, DRC member and the project’s architect, the meeting was attended by Frankel, OTPA President Sandy Quinn and VP Tony Trabucco.
The project includes seven apartments, most with four bedrooms. OTPA reps said it appears intended for student housing and will have difficulty gaining support from its Orange Street neighbors. “We repeated our opposition to demolishing or moving the home to another part of the property,” Frankel said. “This is the visual gateway to Old Towne when you enter on Glassell, and it’s hard to justify replacing a historic home with apartment buildings. We expressed again our opposition to the scale, mass and design as now proposed. It’s not reflective of Old Towne.”