PLAINFIELD, NJ - Plans to convert Plainfield’s Dudley House to a transitional vets’ home cleared a hurdle Tuesday with a “certificate of appropriateness” from the Historic Preservation Commission.

The city-owned 19th Century Italianate building in the Putnam-Watchung Historic District was subject to HPC review for exterior changes including new windows and doors, roof repair and removal of third floor wood siding for replacement with stucco.  All such changes in historic districts must comply with Design Guidelinespdf that are posted online.

The plan is to house 18 vets in eight rooms, dormitory-style, while they receive transitional services through a program operated by HomeFirst, an agency dedicated to prevention of homelessness. See previous article here.

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Commission members rejected the proposed use of vinyl replacement windows and presenters Dean Di Sessa of Pennoni Associates and architect Kenneth Gruskin agreed to use aluminum-clad wood windows instead. Although wood-framed windows were preferred, Gruskin said the cost was prohibitive. The city is using a $398,000 Department of Community Affairs grant for the project and wood windows would have doubled the cost per window, Gruskin said.

Commissioner John Favazzo said vinyl windows were “too modern.”

“They need to look like they were not manufactured by the Jetsons,” he said of the 38 new windows to be replaced. 

Commissioners also preferred a wooden ramp to the proposed use of an electric lift to meet ADA requirements, but Gruskin said a ramp would be more expensive and take up too much of the site’s footprint. Commissioner Mario Camino suggested a ramp would cost less than the lift and with the difference, he said, “There’s your windows.”

Commissioner Gary Schneider suggested starting a GoFundMe campaign to make up the $7,000 shortfall for wood windows. 

Among other comments before the vote, Commissioner Larry Quirk said he felt there would be “a lot of people” in a very small footage, though that issue was “not in our purview.” Finance Director Ron West said the program called for serving 25 individuals over two years, and noted 18 people slept there in the past program at Dudley House. When HPC Chairman William Michelson mentioned a plan to house veterans in small apartments at 810 Central Avenue, West said there was “no plan” to make Dudley House a permanent residence.

Later in the testimony, Michelson said, “I’ve got to say, for the most part, I like this a lot.”

West said the work is expected to be complete by June.