More input needed on Hotel Manisses addition

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 6:00pm
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The Hotel Manisses’ application for a proposed addition was continued once again, as the members of the Historic District Commission sought more information from the applicants and wanted input from the members who were absent for the meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.

The application is for a new, three-story addition to be built on top of a single-story basement behind the existing Hotel Manisses building on Spring Street (Plat 7, Lot 27). The application had been tabled at a previous meeting due to the absence of Chair Bill Penn and Vice Chair Martha Ball.

“The main purpose is to build an addition to the hotel, on top of the one story addition,” said Michael Abbott of Newport Collaborative Architects. Abbott and Hotel Manisses co-owner Blake Filippi were present for their application review.

The addition will be built behind existing vegetation, continued Abbott. “The addition will look like two buildings, instead of one long continuous building. This building is almost lined up with the back of the existing building, offsets each other. The addition will set back quite a bit from the street,” said Abbott.

Abbott referenced the surrounding buildings in the area. The new addition would be the same height as the present hotel and in proportion to nearby residences and the Harbor Church across Spring Street, he said.

“What would be the elevation of the new building?” asked Penn.

“The addition is the same height as the existing hotel,” said Abbott. 

Abbott said the new addition would include double porch decks and French doors.

Residents Tom and Pat Doyle objected to those design elements, which would face their High Street property. 

“We are the house that looks directly across... we hear and see everything going on. The architecture is a total change and feel of the environment. These double doors invite you outside,” said Doyle, adding the French double doors would increase the noise level.

Penn reminded the board and audience that the application was “dealing with siting and massing, not architectural details.” Penn went on to add, “It is a large massing to the existing building, with the porches and the stairways. It is more than just matching the existing massing of the building, it’s greater than that.”

The board was split on their opinion on whether the size of the proposed addition appeared bigger than the original design.

“I personally feel the massing is too big, in relation to the existing historic structure,” said Penn.

“I definitely think it is going to look much bigger than the existing hotel,” said member Kay McManus.

“And it’s going to overshadow it,” said Penn.

“I don’t think it’s wider,” stated member Mark Vaillancourt.

“I don’t either,” said Vice Chair Martha Ball.

McManus stated she would like to see the square footage of the existing and proposed buildings to have a better understanding of the size of the addition.

“The question is, now, do we need more information before making a decision? This is a massive project that needs to be thoroughly vetted by us. What direction do we give Blake and his architectural team in moving forward?” asked Penn. Penn said, “we would like to see square footage of the existing versus the new, another suggestion is maybe eliminating the second level deck.”

Penn recommended continuing the application, and “it would be good to have the other members of our commission here.”

The board made the motion to continue the application for further preliminary review, and Abbott was given suggestions to take out the French double doors, and to remove the second floor decking, to mirror the existing building.

The Nature Conservancy building Due to changes to a project that had been previously approved by the HDC, The Nature Conservancy submitted an application to modify plans for a new storage building being built on High Street (Plat 7, Lot 39). TNC Associate State Director Scott Comings and contractor Bill Carey were present for the application.

The application included proposed modifications to an application originally submitted on June 25, 2018, including proposed changes to window and door configurations on the north and south elevations of the new storage building. The second item proposed the installation of a vertical chair lift instead of a handicap access ramp. The vertical chair lift will be located on the east side of the porch addition, which will allow wheelchair access through the front door.

Carey addressed the design changes on the project. He noted that the doors on the north elevation were altered due to the existence of the town water line, which would not allow for a change in the grade on that elevation. This changed the layout of the window placement on the second floor, Carey said. He continued that similarly on the south elevation the proposed door was removed due to grading concerns and the window layout was ultimately changed, as well.

Comings said there would be side-by-side barn doors that would open and fit a tractor inside on the north elevation. The original proposal was one barn door and a single door, and now it is two barn doors.

“Why did you make these changes without coming to us?” asked Penn. “This puts us in a position... a problematic situation, especially with the organization we are dealing with.” Penn stated the changes should have come to the board before the new changes were constructed. Building Official Marc Tillson issued a a cease and desist order on the project on Jan. 21

“Nothing has happened since then. We have stopped. The only thing we have done to that building is finished the shingling,” said Carey.

Kristin Baumann, whose house is next door to the new building, asked if the tractor would fit through the barn doors, noting “it’s tight there.”

“You have to make it work,” said Ball.

“We will make it work,” said Comings.

Comings also agreed with replacing the handicap accessible ramp with “a wheelchair lift located on the porch facing south on the new addition, the eastern side.”

Members of the commission then transitioned back to the recent changes made to the buildings, with Penn asking if the windows on the second floor of the north elevation be separated, rather than placed together.

Ball made a motion to “approve modifications to an existing certificate of appropriateness for a new structure. The modifications to the previous approval, on the north elevation, with there to be two garage doors as shown on the application dated Feb. 7, 2020. Two barn doors on the north elevation, with three two over two windows as shown on the south elevation, to be on the north elevation. And south elevation to be as shown with the application of the same date,” said Ball.

After Ball’s first motion, Penn made a second motion to approve wheelchair lift instead of the ramp, which was approved.

New water fountain at library Library Board of Trustees member Shirlyne Gobern presented the application to install a water fountain in front of the Island Free Library (Plat 6, Lot 118).

“The water fountain would be a similar one to the one at Nicholas Ball Park,” said Gobern. As of now, there are two water fountains on the island: one at Nicholas Ball Park in front of Old Harbor church, and one at the Solviken property.

“The one that is at the park seems to be functioning very well,” said Chair Bill Penn.

Baumann was also present for this application, and shared her thoughts on the importance of having a water fountain available to the community.

“This [water fountain] will make it more convenient and approachable. Everyone can access it. The water fountain will be part of a larger campaign to reduce plastic on Block Island. We worked on the location of it, put if off to the side. . . I think they are useful,” said Baumann. The water fountain design will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The commission entertained the motion to approve the application of installing a water fountain at the library.

Penn agreed with Baumann on the water fountain contributing to the community in a sustainable fashion.

“Any way we as a community can cut back on plastic bottles,” said Penn. Motion approved.

Installing signs at The Cracked Mug Cafe Cracked Mug owner Alicia Miro was present for her application to install three signs and an A-frame at The Cracked Mug Café (Plat 6, Lot 3-2) on Ocean Avenue, above Poor People’s Pub.

“I am here to replace the Topside Café signs, with my name and logo,” said Miro. Her business was previously located at Odd Fellows Hall.

The commission approved the application for the three new signs, and to eliminate the sign on the east elevation.

Window to be replaced below the National Hotel Chaz Vest was present for the application to replace an existing window with the same-size sliding window below the National Hotel (Plat 6, Lot 117-2). Vest noted he “just started renting Mia’s Gelato,” and the sliding window would be used for take-out purposes.

The application of installing a sliding window was aproved.

The Historic District Commission is scheduled to meet on Monday, Mar. 23 at 4 p.m. for its next meeting.