Big projects proposed for Historic District
Significant changes proposed in the Historic District were on tap for discussion this week.
The Historic District Commission met at noon Tuesday for a Zoom meeting to review updated proposals from The Block Island Beach House and The Manisses Hotel.
In a meeting that lasted over 90 minutes,
the commissioners wrestled with new signage being proposed by the Beach House and its affiliated properties, as well as proposed additions to both properties.
Both entities were largely represented by their architects in a lively back-and-forth exchange that resulted in approval for new signage at the entrance to the Beach House. The
Commissioners also approved new carved wood signs for the The Gables that will hang over the sidewalk and porch but be smaller that those currently in use.
Commissioners then moved onto the meat of the agenda, beginning with a significant renovation and proposed addition to the Dodge Street-facing Surfside, which is situated across from the Red Bird Liquor store. The property has served as employee housing for many years.
A spirited discussed ensued over the proposed renovation and new, contiguous addition. The work would add a total of 12 new guest rooms to the Beach House complex and would include the demolition of an existing cottage/garage that is hidden from the street out back.
Commissioners Arlene Tunney and Martha Ball had concerns over the aesthetic changes proposed to the current Surfside cottage, with one comparing the addition to the east as the equivalent of a camper bump-out. They also suggested changes to the street-facing dormer that was added several years ago and does not complement the building.
The proposed addition and overall design behind and perpendicular to the current structure seemed to be digested with mixed feelings. Commissioners seemed favorable to its narrow width of 22 feet but balked at its roof design and overall building mass. The architect agreed to come back with aesthetic options and more exacting drawings of parking in the rear. Commissioners also asked the design team from Newport Collaborative Architects to consider separating the proposed addition from the renovated Surfside building to break up the building mass. The proposal was sent back for more work.
The Manisses Hotel was next before the Commissioners with two proposed agenda items, a three story addition to be built on top of the existing flat-roofed kitchen, and a new addition to go out the rear of the building that largely is hidden from the street.
The addition to the top of the kitchen was quickly tabled for future discussion based on input from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission and will be revisited later.
The second item, a proposed addition on the west side that would run directly perpendicular to the street-facing facade of the current property, drew input from almost all of
the commissioners, as well as abutters.
Presented by Mike Abbott, also of Newport Collaborative Architects, the new adjoined structure would represent what was termed a “sympathetic addition” to a previously existing wing on the backside of the hotel that was torn down years ago.
According to owners Blake and Paul Filippi, the addition is needed for the property to be able to
meet the increasing demand for more family gatherings, weddings, and off-site corporate meetings, as well as returning room guests.
The roof lines, design, and height would reflect what is already in place with additional landscaping and terraces. Running directly off the middle of the back of the property, the front of the hotel would remain visually identical to what passersby currently see from Spring Street. The addition would allow the architects to eliminate the fire escapes now on the back walls of the property.
Commissioners seemed to like the overall proposed layout, design and massing. They asked for the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission to weigh in and review it to be sure it met with their guidelines and satisfied abutters’ concerns that the footprint might be different than what was originally in place or discussed. They unanimously voted to send it for further review and feedback and no further action was taken.