Back to the drawing board says HDC

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 8:00am
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The owners of the Surfside building, 54 Dodge Street OpCo. LLC, Plat 6, lot 138, are headed back to the drawing board for their renovation and planned addition to the building. This rethinking of the project, according to co-owner Rich Cooper, is in response to the reaction from the Historic District Commission, which met Monday, May 24, to discuss the plans.

The architect, Glenn Gardiner of Newport Collaborative Architects, has already reworked the project after the first meeting with the HDC, shrinking the overall size, moving the garage rather than demolishing it, looking at different roof line options, and dropping the dormer from the plans altogether.
The HDC was not impressed. Member Mike Ballard suggested the applicants review the guidelines for the Historic District Commission and get a sense of what it is the HDC is supposed to be accomplishing. He said the proposal “runs in the face of what the guidelines for the HDC are,” and the current proposal is “offensive” to the roof lines and sight lines of the neighboring buildings.
Member Arlene Tunney stated that the addition had “nothing to do with the existing building.” She also pointed out that the addition is twice the square footage of the existing building.
Chair William Penn pointed out that the guidelines for the HDC clearly state that the roof of any addition should follow the roof of
the existing building. Since the existing roof is a gable roof, it was not clear to him why the architects had included options for either a gambrel or a mansard roof. He also said the proposal is not staying within the historic guidelines, and that a three-story addition to a “charming little building is unacceptable.”

Member Martha Ball asked if the applicants had talked to their neighbors about the proposed addition. Co-owner Rob Blood answered that they were in communication with several of the neighbors and were letting a couple of them use some space for storage.
Penn informed Blood that the HDC had received numerous letters in opposition from virtually all the neighboring business properties, including the Darius Inn, Lazy Fish, Persephone’s Kitchen, Red Right Return, and the Gothic Inn. Penn suggested the applicants speak to their neighbors since they are nearly all in opposition to the proposed additions.

The meeting was opened to public comment, and Larry Wohl called in on behalf of the Gothic Inn. He stated they were not wholly opposed to the project, but wanted the applicants to take into consideration the size, scope, and location of the addition.
Carolyn Collins, owner of Lazy Fish, called in to say that she was not opposed to renovations and restorations, and is actually excited about the re-imagining of the building. But having seen the planned design she said the size and height of the proposed addition are “alarming.” She also mentioned that the planned relocation of the garage to the top of the hill behind the property was “unfortunate.”

Collins also said that she had yet to meet Blood, or anyone else from the project, and said that other neighboring business owners say they have not met anyone either. To that end, Blood said his partner on the project, Rich Cooper, would be available to meet with the HDC and any other interested parties the next day. There were several neighbors who showed up to meet Cooper Tuesday morning along with one HDC member, Kay McManus.
Cooper informed the group of Dodge Street store and business owners that he and Blood, along with the architect, Gardiner, would be going back to the drawing board to produce something smaller in scale. He said they had heard the message at the HDC meeting and that they were more than willing to pivot to something more acceptable to the commission and the neighborhood.
As such, Cooper listened to the complaints from several neighbors who have been unable to reach anyone up to this point, hearing some of the same arguments from the night before such as concerns for the project’s size and location. But he also heard some new ones. Several neighboring business owners expressed concern about the limited parking on the street, and voiced the opinion that the addition of more hotel rooms would compound the problem. Judy Clark, owner of Red Right Return and also an island taxi owner, expressed concern for adding more traffic to what is already a busy street.
Becca Zendt of the Darius Inn stated, “it is a lot of development to digest,” referring not only to the proposal for the Surfside building, but also the renovations to the Gables property and the 48-bed employee housing addition Cooper and Blood are also working on to house employees from all three properties. Collins expressed concerns about the number of rooms being added and the impact it will have on island infrastructure and sustainability. Cooper assured the group of business owners that he understood the importance of sustainability on the island.
The HDC continued the application until such time as a three-dimensional model can be prepared to see how the project will fit in with the other buildings on the street, a model that will include all the buildings from the Surf Hotel down to the Gothic Inn. Tuesday morning, Cooper emphasized that he and his business partner had gotten the message and he told the group of Dodge Street business owners, “We want to be good neighbors.”