Manisses addition underwhelms the HDC

Wed, 12/22/2021 - 7:15am
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The Hotel Manisses was back in front of the Historic District Commission on Monday, December 6, with updates to the design for the addition. The plan is to construct a three-story wing on the existing basement. The HDC approved the sizing and massing previously, and had asked the applicant to come back with an updated rendering of the back of the building. The original design had a blank wall on the back of the addition
that would face High Street. Neighbors and abutters on the High Street side had stated, and the HDC agreed, that the back of the building needed dressing up.
“I’m a little underwhelmed,” Member Mike Ballard said upon seeing the new drawings. The architect added a set of three windows and a dormer to the back of the addition facing High Street. The applicant had also changed the railing design at the request of the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, and had made the division of the two sections, existing and new addition, more pronounced by making the division all glass with a flat roof. The architect, J. Michael Abbott called it a “real break” between the new part of the building and the old.
There was further discussion of more ideas to “soften the back” of the building, with the architect agreeing that he could change the siding on the first level to match the side of the building, presenting a distinction between the first floor and the upper two. He also said he would “carry through” the decorative bands that run on the sides of the building.
Abutters Tom and Pat Doyle presented a letter to the HDC recounting their experience with the RIHPHC when they renovated their property, the
Mitchell Cottage, in 2005. At that time, the RIHPHC concluded that the view of their property was prominent “from High Street and Spring Street.”
The RIHPHC has concluded in the Manisses case that the “primary public view” is from Spring Street, and stated that the addition will not alter the historic appearance from its primary view. The RIHPHC also stated that rather than coming out to look at the property, they had relied on historic
postcards to determine the viewsheds that would be affected.
Ballard suggested that the HDC should ask the RIHPHC to come out for a site visit. Land Use Official Jenn Brady said the commission could ask, but that the RIHPHC would not be obligated to come out. Pat Doyle said she would like them to come out, saying “a lot has happened, especially with landscaping, and postcards don’t show the back [of the building].” Member Bill Koch asked if the applicant could still move forward with sending applications to the planning and zoning boards, to which Brady replied in the affirmative.

The HDC decided to hold off on final approval until the architect can provide updated details to the drawings.