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LOS ALTOS, CA

NEW nature center 

redwood grove NATURE PRESERVE

FEASIBILITY STUDY

AND ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN 

At the end of 2015, the City of Los Altos contacted us to prepare a feasibility study for both the adaptive reuse of the Historic Halsey House that is located in the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve  and as an alternate, the Council also wanted us to examine the possibility of removing the historic building and replace it with a new and  more functional facility of equal size in the same general location within the Nature Preserve.

The Halsey House was originally constructed for Theodore Vail Halsey and Emma Wright Halsey in 1923 and was used as their family home until 1945, when the property was sold to the Bessy Family for $25,000. In 1974 the house along with the property was acquired  by the City of Los Altos for the use as a nature preserve, and as a location which the city could offer their seasonal recreational programs. However, after many years of inactivity by the city, and lacking the necessary funds to perform the necessary upkeep and repair the older home on the property, the city eventually closed the Halsey House to the public because safety and structural issues. with the building. 

In 2010, the City of Los Altos acquired a portion of land between Redwood Grove Nature Preserve and Shoup Park for a public foot path access along Adobe Creek; connecting the two parks. In 2014, the City Council approved a Capital Improvement Project to invest approximately $750,000 on Redwood Grove Park's grounds that included replacing the aging boardwalk and pedestrian bridge, and cement embankments. Unfortunately no funds were allocated for any maintenance or repair of the Halsey House and as a consequence, the neglected older historic structure continued to deteriorate from its unprotected exposure to the weather. 

 

Four more years past until the City Council would approved a unfunded Capital Improvement Project to perform an evaluation on the general costs required to repair, reconstruct, and renovate the existing Halsey House so it might serve the immediate needs of the city and as an alternate plan, they wanted to look at removing the historic structure and replacing it with a more functional building of equal size.  Towards the end of 2015 after receiving private donations from Friends of Redwood Grove, to fund this study, the city solicited requests for proposal from various architectural firms. In December of that year, we were awarded this contract by the city to perform this evaluation and feasibility study.

After numerous visits to the site and meetings with the general public along with the project's  immediate stakeholders, we developed two design schemes. We also included our recommendations and the anticipated construction budgets for each approach. The renderings above are of the unrealized Nature Center Building we had designed as the alternative design scheme, which the City Council wanted us to develop as part of this evaluation. 

 

The proposed building was intended to occupy the same location on the site as the building it was to replace and utilizes a similar 3,500 sq. ft. building footprint as the original residence, but the finish floor level  and all principal outdoor terraces have been raised  so they no longer remain within the Adobe Creek Flood Plain. We also added to the original building footprint, a smaller 460 sq. ft. detached structure (separated from the main building by the roofed breezeway), where the public toilet rooms, storage room, and janitor 's closet are to be located. 

 

Our overall goal was to create an attractive and functional building for the community that would complement and blend into ts unique picturesque and natural surroundings. We selected a more Contemporary Style for the building in part so we could utilize large floor to ceiling glass curtain walls, which in turn, adds a greater  visual transparency to the building, and helps to bring natural light and the beauty of the outdoors into the public spaces of the building for all to enjoy.

 

Unfortunately, the City Council never took action on any of our recommendations  in this evaluation, nor did they with the follow up recommendations presented  by the Public Works Department Manager at the time. As a consequence, the Historic Halsey House remains to this day, in the same decaying state as it did when we first looked at this project for the city.