Changes proposed to Empire Theatre at recent HDC

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 5:45pm
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With a future that includes being a retail space during the day and a movie theater at night, Empire Theatre owner Gary Pollard came to the Historic District Commission with two plans to change the exterior of the old building: one application to replace existing signage, and one preliminary application to replace existing doors and windows. Newport Collaborative Architects architect Joanna Grocott was at the meeting with Pollard to answer any questions on Monday, Nov. 23.

Chair Bill Penn started the discussion by stating that the sign proposal did not comply with Historic District ordinances because the design included exposed light bulbs, which are not allowed.

Pollard, however, said there was no power to the sign so the bulbs “cannot be lit.”

“[The letters] that get attached to the building have some sort of a bulb that cannot be lit, but it looks like a bulb. If there’s light from overhead, it will glisten to some degree. It’s not designed to be powered. It’s not a light bulb,” said Pollard.

Penn said an exposed light bulb is not acceptable, and would need to be covered.

“We have legal opinion that says it is illegal,” said Penn.

Penn asked for Pollard to withdraw the application without prejudice, and “to come back with the application of the sign you are describing.”

“We will review the sign and will come back next month with our application,” answered Grocott. The sign application was withdrawn without prejudice for the night.

The board moved onto Pollard’s preliminary application to replace the existing doors and windows on the façade of the theater, which was built in 1888. Grocott explained the proposed plans.

“The [Empire Theatre] is now a daytime retail and a night time movie theater. We are proposing to replace the falling apart doors that are existing with two sets of double doors that have a glazing panel to allow a visual draw during the day, and in addition, to highlight the historic ticket booth that is in the lobby,” said Grocott.

Member Mike Ballard made a motion to approve the preliminary application, with the approval contingent upon a receipt of confirmation approving the plans from the Building Official. Design of the lighting was asked to be included in the plans as well.

The motion was seconded by member Mark Vaillancourt, and approved by the board for preliminary approval, with a recusal from Vice Chair Martha Ball. The applicant will come back for final approval on the application.

Block Market

Plat 6, Lot 99

A signage application was submitted by Block Market owner Sean Dugan for a new retail frontage sign to be placed on the Figurehead building on Water Street. Dugan is moving his Block Market retail space into the space formerly occupied by the Tipsy Mermaid.

Penn asked Dugan for his intentions with the new signage.

“I’m just changing from the Tipsy Mermaid sign — which used to be there — to Block Market,” said Dugan.

“Is it that same sign that you had at the other Block Market?” asked member Arlene Tunney.

“Yes,” said Dugan.

Ballard made a motion to approve the application, with Tunney seconding the motion. The motion was passed unanimously by the board.