HDC approves Gables and Gothic Inn projects
At its most recent meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29, the members of the Historic District Commission gave their go-ahead for the developments planned by the owners and operators of the Block Island Beach House, some modest modifications to the Gothic Inn, while also asking for a second opinion from a mainland historical society on an addition planned for the Hotel Manisses.
54 Dodge Street Block Island OpCo, LLC
The Gables Inn
Plat 6, Lot 131
The revised application for the Gables Inn was given final approval by the commission. Representing the project were Newport Collaborative Architects architect Joanna Grocott, architect Glenn Gardiner, and Matunuck Design Group landscape architect Mark Butler. Updates included a new shed dormer and new fence along the driveway.
Grocott said these would be the final revisions.
HDC member Mike Ballard noted that the commission had asked for uniformity in the window design, but the plans did not seem to reflect that.
“It looks like you made an effort to change some of the windows... but not those in the shed. My request would be that you make it all uniform,” said Ballard.
Member Arlene Tunney also brought up the issue of compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations with respect to the size of the rooms.
“If someone is in a wheelchair, they can’t go to bed. [Not enough room] for a wheelchair,” said Tunney.
Gardiner said he would review the ADA compliance with Building Official Marc Tillson, and “will make sure it complies with ADA.” He also added they would make the windows be uniform in design.
Ballard made the motion to approve the application, “with an addition for the changes that were agreed upon.”
Tunney seconded the motion, and the motion passed unanimously.
The Gothic Inn
Plat 6, Lot 133-2
Gothic Inn owner Ben Wohl submitted an application for fire restoration and renovations, a small addition, window replacement, minor roof modification and to add an air conditioning condenser to the Dodge Street building.
The application was up for final approval by the board, with Lawrence Wohl and Cordtsen Design Architecture architect Jay Grover present.
Grover mentioned there are two buildings on the site, but the applicants were only “dealing with the one on the right that had the fire.” Back in October 2019, a fire had damaged one of the buildings on the Gothic site.
“Last month when we met, we took all your comments and integrated them into the project,” said Grover. “There was a comment last time on the fencing. We set the fence back so that you are not looking at the condensers from the room.”
“How are you going to get the [air conditioning] to the rooms — exterior or interior piping?” asked HDC Chair Bill Penn.
“We are going to do it inside of the building,” said Grover.
Tunney brought up the ADA compliance for handicap accessibility in the building.
“We are exempt because it’s a historic building,” said Wohl.
Tunney and Penn stressed that this was not true, while Wohl stated he had looked over the legal requirements of the ADA compliance with the building.
“I would like to get a written opinion. We approved modification to the Surf Hotel, they had to comply with ADA… we would like to see a legal opinion” from Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla,” said Penn.
Penn made a motion to give final approval of the application, subject to legal review of the ADA compliance.
“We think you did a complete presentation. The only issue is the legal issue of the ADA and we will let the town solicitor deal with that,” said Penn, The application was passed unanimously.
Wohl stated that Grover would provide the board and town solicitor with written confirmation of the ADA compliance.
“I thank the Wohl family for bringing this wonderful building back into the historic district,” said Penn.
251 Spring Street, LLC
The Hotel Manisses
Plat 7, Lot 27
Presenting the application to construct a three story addition on an existing basement at the Hotel Manisses was co-owner of the Hotel Manisses Blake Filippi and Newport Collaborative Architects architect Michael Abbott. The application was on the agenda for preliminary review.
Filippi came back to the board with new revisions and alterations based on previous comments made by the board for the new addition, but the board felt that the dimensions on the Hotel Manisses and the new addition on the existing basement were incorrect and overbearing. The footprint for the Hotel Manisses is 2,695 square feet, and the new building on the existing basement is proposed at 3,760 square feet.
“We have been at it for 11 months now and we think we have made a lot of progress with the suggestions for the board,” said Filippi.
Tunney asked Filippi and Abbott if they had been in touch with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for an opinion on the proposed plans.
“It’s a historic building,” added Tunney.
Penn also added “I would like to get an advisory opinion from the RI HPHC on the proposal you are putting forth. The new building you presented, it overshadows the existing historic building… I think we’ll ask the RI HPHC to give us an advisory, based on the fact that they gave the historic tax credits and administered the restoration of the existing building,” concluded Penn.
Ballard made the motion to request an advisory from the HPHC on the application, with the board agreeing in a unanimous decision.
Abbott mentioned that the dimensions were the same size “we submitted back in November.”
“It’s still a big building,” said Tunney.
“The HPHC may decline our request — we are just asking for another opinion,” said Penn.
Solar systems in the Historic District
Penn said that the process of designing and installing solar systems within the Historic District should be implemented.
“I think it’s time we codify it in terms of our guidelines,” said Penn, expressing interest in creating a statement regarding solar installations in the district.
The commission agreed to draft language on solar array installations, and to discuss the statement at its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 26.