HDC: Gables Inn proposal requires 3D model

For plans to convert property
Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:45pm

The anticipated unveiling of plans to develop the Gables Inn property on Dodge Street was put on hold after the Chair of the Historic District Commission asked for a three-dimensional model of the proposal.

A team of architects, engaged by Lark Hotels, were prepared to unveil plans on paper for the project on Tuesday night, before Chair Bill Penn expressed his “reservations about the application.”

“This is a significant project in the historic district, and for us to give a preliminary evaluation for siting and massing we should have a three-dimensional model showing the new construction, and showing the adjacent buildings,” Penn said.

“The single plane drawing, which you’re presenting, does not do that,” said Penn. “It does not give us, or the community, an opportunity to really get a view of what the massing and the siting will look like.”

Glenn Gardiner, from the Newport-based Northeast Collaborative Architects, asked Penn if he was requesting “a physical model, or a computer model?”

“A physical model,” said Penn. “We have seen computer renderings in the past that were misleading. We need to see how it’s going to fit within that property, and how it’s going to fit within the adjacent properties.”

Penn told The Times after the meeting that, “The three-dimensional model is used for major, new, and complex projects in the historic district. It gives us perspective of massing and siting from many directions, as well as impacts on surrounding buildings. We have requested three-dimensional models in the past.”

The Grove, as the project involving the Gables Inn property is being called, is part of Lark Hotels’ development of its Block Island Beach House resort complex, which includes renovating the Surf Hotel. The Grove project entails refurbishing the Gables Inn, installing a pool with Ipe hardwood decking, creating two rental units in an existing barn, constructing a single cottage, a duplex cottage, and staff housing, containing six-bedrooms, and men and women’s bathroom facilities in an attached relocated barn.

During the meeting, Gardiner asked Penn if he could address the concerns regarding renovations of the Surf Hotel that were discussed at the HDC’s Feb. 28 meeting. He also asked if his team could “present the site plan” for the Grove project.

Penn said that since the Surf Hotel application was not listed on Tuesday’s agenda that it could not be discussed. “We could schedule a special meeting, but we can’t deal with that item tonight,” he said. “Sorry about that.”

As for the architects presenting the Grove’s site plan, Penn reiterated his request for a three-dimensional model. “I don’t see how we can make a decision on siting and massing without a physical model. I can’t visualize how this development, from Dodge Street to almost Chapel Street, is going to look like compared to anything else in that location.”

The architects tried to present the project as much as they could, touching on the high quality of the Ipe hardwood decking that would be installed around the pool; where the buildings and a long driveway would be located on the property; and that Connecticut Valley Modular Homes, would construct the buildings.

The commission warned that the project would require proper drainage and storm-water runoff measures, as well as accommodating a high water table in the property’s vicinity. Vice Chair Martha Ball said Building Official Marc Tillson was a “great resource,” to which Gardiner said the architects intend on consulting with him.

The architects informed the commission that they will be meeting with the New Shoreham Town Council on April 3. They then began to detail aspects of the project, before Penn cut the discussion short. “I feel very strongly that we need to see a three-dimensional model,” he said.

The HDC deferred action on the item until its next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m.

Response from Lark Hotels CEO

Rob Blood, CEO of Lark Hotels, said that he and the developers “were a little surprised” by the HDC’s request, “but it's not a big deal. We'll have a model done in two to three weeks. It's something that we were planning on doing as a marketing tool anyway. The key here, as explained by our landscape architect, Mark Butler, is that only a tiny fraction of this area will be able to be seen from the street. I would also say that part of the reason I love Block Island is the historic nature of the architecture, so our goal is to work with the HDC to make sure what we are doing is appropriate and in keeping with the character of the town. We think it is.”

“We think that the finished poolside area will be spectacular and while it may seem ambitious, our understanding is that what we are asking for with the five cottages and the pool is allowed by current zoning,” noted Blood. “We're more than happy to go through the process and look forward to continuing to work with the various boards and officials in town. We are committed to creating an in-town resort that will be respectful of the island, as well as appealing to visitors.”

Blood said that this part of the Block Island Beach House development “is focused on the poolside cottages, and working through HDC approvals. These are one bedroom cottages with a downstairs living room, so they are larger than the rooms at the Surf and Gables. Our goal with the development is to create a resort that has many different styles of accommodation, so that we can host many generations of travelers.”