National Hotel installing air conditioning system

To serve all of its rooms
Thu, 10/31/2019 - 6:45pm

The National Hotel will be joining the ranks of hotels and inns on Block Island that have air conditioning throughout their buildings. The four-story hotel had been primarily operating with ceiling and desk fans, although two of its rooms have air conditioning units.

The hotel will be installing a seven-unit air conditioning system that will serve 44 of its 45 rooms at its Water Street address. The historic building, built in 1902, which has always operated as a restaurant and hotel, first installed air conditioning in one of its rooms 20 years ago. One of its rooms will operate with an existing air conditioning unit, so all 45 rooms will have air conditioning.

The hotel was granted unanimous (5-0) final approval for the installation project by the Historic District Commission at its meeting on Monday night. Commission member Mark Vaillancourt made the motion that was seconded by Arlene Tunney. Mike Ballard was absent.

“It’s a nice solution,” said Tunney while reviewing the plans for the project, which were presented by Julie Fuller, the hotel’s general manager.

The plan for the $50,000 HDC approved portion of the project calls for seven air conditioner compressors to be installed on a concrete slab at the side of the hotel’s rear deck, abutting its parking lot. (The overall project is estimated to cost about $500,000.) The units will be screened by a retaining wall, white picket fence, and plantings.

Fuller told the commission that none of the piping would be exposed, as it will run under the back deck, through a vent and into the building. “You will not be able to see it.”

“That’s impressive,” remarked Chair Bill Penn, noting that the application “meets all of the HDC’s guidelines.”

“These (seven) units will air condition the whole hotel?” asked commission member Dennis Riordan.

“Yes. All of the rooms,” said Fuller, who noted that the Westerly-based A and L Mechanical will be installing the air conditioning system.

“Wow,” said Riordan in response.

Vice Chair Martha Ball pointed out during the findings of fact that the alterations for the project leave the building “fundamentally unchanged.” She added: “It’s in the National Register of Historic Places.”

Fuller told The Times after the meeting that, “It was time” to install the air conditioning system. “Most properties now offer it, and many guests have come to expect it.” She said the hotel’s owner, Chris Sereno, “felt comfortable with the contractor that he picked, and we felt we had a good plan to execute it. We wanted to do it right and not take shortcuts just to get it done.”  

“There are certainly guests that have come to appreciate that Block Island is still like turning the clock back in time,” said Fuller. “Of course we hope to still retain that Victorian charm while providing this amenity. We are hoping that it makes our guests happy. People have come to expect it, and we have often had people not book because of it. We strive each year to make the building better; this is a big project but one that should last.”

Old Island Pub retaining wall

The Gaffett family will not have to install a stone veneer on its newly constructed concrete west-facing retaining wall. That’s because four of five HDC members voted in favor of leaving the wall as constructed, noting that a veneer was unnecessary. Tunney was the lone dissenter.

Paige Gaffett, attending her 35th meeting concerning approvals for the family’s new Old Island Pub establishment on Ocean Avenue, said abutting property owner, Chris Reeves, conveyed to Building Official Marc Tillson, Land Use Administrator Jenn Brady, the Planning Board and Town Manager Ed Roberge that covering the retaining wall with a stone veneer is “unnecessary.”

Reeves supported Gaffett’s claim by stating that he had “no issue” with the concrete wall. “I’m fine with it,” he said. Reeves was in attendance regarding an application for his abutting single-family home. (He received unanimous approval for replacing a garage door with two windows.)

As for Tunney’s disapproval of the Gaffett’s project, she said she drove by the establishment “twice,” and felt the retaining wall was “very visible, and there’s nothing growing on it. It’s a concrete wall.” Tunney told Gaffett that she felt the wall should be dressed up in a similar fashion as the rain garden on the east side of the property.

“I went by it today,” said Ball, noting that there are concrete retaining walls in various locales here and there on the island. “I don’t have an issue with it. I haven’t from the get-go.”

Vaillancourt echoed Ball’s sentiments. “I agree with it being a concrete wall,” he said. 

Penn said that the application should be approved, in part because Reeves intended to install a stone wall on his abutting property. Vaillancourt made the motion that was seconded by Ball and granted final approval 4-1.

Nicholas Ball Park signage

The HDC granted approval (4-1) for directional signage the Old Harbor Task Force intends to install on the grounds of Nicholas Ball Park at the corner of Spring and Water Streets. OHTF Chair Margie Comings said seven signs would be affixed to a wood post in that location.

Tunney made the motion to grant final approval that was seconded by Vaillancourt. Ball dissented, as she felt the OHTF’s intended location was “a terrible place” for installing signage. “I have to be opposed.” She stated, “This isn’t in (the commission’s) purview.”

Comings stood before the commission holding two signs that resembled the signage the group intended to install. The white signs with black text would be made of plastic and resemble existing signage for Old Town Road and Graces Cove Road. The signs would be arrow-shaped, pointing in the direction of the Southeast Lighthouse, Medical Center, Block Island School, etc.

The next HDC meeting is Monday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m.