Year In Review: SHPMC Select Final Design, Present To BOS

Published: December 31, 2018 at 06:30 am


Over the last year, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (SHPMC) completed its goal of selecting a memorial design to honor the victims of 12/14.

In January, the group began what was called “Phase 1-A,” which included going over nearly 200 design submissions that the commission received for the permanent memorial on Riverside Road. All submissions at this stage had the designers’ names and background kept anonymous, with only an identification code shared.

Each member of the commission and panel were able to digitally review the design files prior to the meeting to compile notes. They also received a large binder, the first of four volumes, at the start of the meeting that included information on the initial 30 submitted designs that they would assess that evening.

In that meeting, designs were evaluated one-by-one and narrowed down to the commission’s top choices to move forward. The process continued throughout multiple meetings until all submissions had been reviewed, and Phase 1-A was completed in February.

At this stage, a total of 13 designs had been chosen to move forward, and the SHPMC proceeded by inviting the 26 families who lost loved ones on 12/14 to review the designs and offer input if any wished to do so.

The families were welcome to provide feedback by e-mail, by phone, or in person during either of two privately scheduled forums. Individuals were encouraged to submit a form that prompted them to relay what they liked, were indifferent about, or what they disliked about each design.

The public was also invited to offer input and was able to view the design proposals on the commission’s website as well as in person at two community workshops.

Prior to the first meeting in April, where the commission was expecting to review the feedback they received in length, SHPMC Chairman Kyle Lyddy unexpectedly announced his resignation from the commission.

Mr Lyddy was sworn into the commission on October 7, 2013, along with 11 other original members. He had been part of every major decision the group made thus far, from selecting a property for the memorial to narrowing down design submissions to compiling feedback on the top designs from 12/14 families and the Newtown community.

Filling in for him at the subsequent SHPMC meetings was First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, who offered insight to what the members’ options were for finding a new chairman. He explained that a new chairman could be selected from within the established group they already have, or they can invite an outside source to fill the position.

In addition to a new chairman, Mr Rosenthal said the commission should strongly consider adding another voting member to the group, now that they were down to nine people.

He suggested they think about adding former First Selectman Pat Llodra as a member, since she had been overseeing the commission’s work while she was in office. It would also make for a smooth transition because she was currently on the SHPMC’s Advisory Panel.

The SHPMC members took his advice and welcomed Ms Llodra to the commission, where she began her role in the special April 30 meeting.

At the meeting, the group also unanimously voted in commission member Daniel Krauss as the new chairman.

“I am humbled and honored,” Mr Krauss said of his newly appointed position.

A New Leader, New Decisions

With a new leader, the SHPMC proceeded in discussing the design feedback they had received and worked to create a short list from the top 13 memorial designs previously selected.

The SHPMC members decided at the time not to officially vote on narrowing down the 13 designs to the four they discussed keeping. They agreed they would like to wait until the next meeting, when the commission’s Advisory Panel of experts could give feedback about the designs.

At the May 10 meeting, the SHPMC moved forward with formally selecting three memorial design submissions to move on to the next stage of the selection process.

With the top three designs newly chosen, Mr Krauss revealed the identity of the designers for each submission. SH37 was submitted by designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck from Berkeley, Calif.; SH108 was submitted by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Ariz.; and SH240 was submitted by Joan Macleod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects from Minneapolis, Minn.

After the meeting, Mr Krauss sent out letters to those who had been chosen to move forward as well as a separate letter to those whose submissions were not selected. In the letter to the finalists was a request for each to come to Newtown to give a presentation about their design.

Prior to the presentations, the SHPMC met to determine that it would allow an hour for each designer, or design team, to discuss their project, and that the time would be broken into two parts: a half an hour presentation, followed by a half an hour for questions.

The commission members also decided they would include a half an hour break between each designer’s allotted hour and have a public participation portion available.

On July 17, the first design team to present was Daniel Affleck and Ben Waldo of SWA Group, based out of San Francisco, Calif., whose design had been labeled SH37 by the commission; the second to present was landscape designer Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC, based out of Tempe, Ariz., for design SH108; and, after overcoming technical difficulties, the final presentation of the afternoon was for the design labeled SH240. The latter was presented by RSP Dreambox Associate Principal and Experience Design Director Teri Kwant, Damon Farber Landscape Architects Principal Landscape Architect Joan MacLeod, and Svigals + Partners Associate Principal Julia McFadden.

At the commission’s following meeting on July 30, each SHPMC member and Advisory Panel member in attendance had the chance to speak about what they liked and disliked about the designers’ presentations.

SHPMC member Tricia Pinto, mother of Jack Pinto, who died on 12/14, initiated the motion to move the design labeled SH37 through. It was then unanimously voted on by the commission in favor of being the design to recommend to the Board of Selectmen, who ultimately had the final approval about the decision for the town.

In preparation for the Board of Selectmen meeting, where they would present their selected design, the SHPMC met August 9 to review the group’s mission statement and discuss adding it to all agendas moving forward. The commission also went over the group’s Charge, which was given to the SHPMC by the Board of Selectmen in September 2013.

The document detailed why the group was initially appointed and what was expected of them by the town. Key notes include that they are to “solicit ideas to be submitted for consideration and review offers and suggestions received,” engage with 12/14 families as well as Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty and parents, conduct public hearings to help gain community input, and work with town groups for help determining an appropriate memorial location.

According to the Charge, the group was also designed to “recommend to the Board of Selectmen Commission findings related to the nature, location, and funding of a memorial(s).”

SHPMC vice chair Alan Martin said that if the commission is to continue as a group, the Charge will need to be amended.

Ms Llodra recommended the commission ask the Board of Selectmen to keep the commission on as a “formal advisory role,” which would involve them through the completion of the project and the memorial’s dedication. Mr Martin and other members on the commission voiced their agreement for that phrasing.

On September 17, members of the SHPMC formally presented their recommended permanent memorial design to Mr Rosenthal, Selectman Maureen Crick Owen, and Selectman Jeff Capeci at a Board of Selectmen meeting.

Mr Krauss, along with Mr Martin and SHPMC member Donna Van Waalwijk, elaborated on the group’s slideshow presentation to give the Board of Selectmen a full understanding of the work that had gone into choosing the design they were recommending.

The three members agreed that not only did the design have their commission’s unanimous support, but it also was the most favored design with the families directly impacted by 12/14.

During the meeting, SWA Principal and Landscape Architect Justin Winters, who was enlisted by Mr Affleck and Mr Waldo to help with the project, was in attendance to answer any questions the Board of Selectmen had.

After the presentation, Mr Rosenthal expressed his gratitude for the years of work the SHPMC put into selecting a site and design for the permanent memorial, saying, “I applaud the commission.”

Despite the group’s Charge being completed, Mr Rosenthal listened to the SHPMC’s request to stay on until the design’s completion.

“My recommendation, obviously with the consent of my fellow selectmen, would be to keep the [SHPMC] intact,” he said.

With the Board of Selectmen’s decision being based on the selection of the design and not maintenance or construction details, all three selectmen voted that day in favor of accepting the SHPMC’s recommended design.

Since then, the project has been going through the town’s processes to bring it to fruition. The SHPMC canceled its regularly scheduled October, November, and December meetings, but it will have its next scheduled meeting on January 10, 2019.

For more information about the Sandy Hook Permanent memorial commission, visit sandyhookpermanentmemorial.com.

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