Surfside comes back to Historic District Commission

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 6:15pm

The last time the application for renovations to the Surfside building was on the agenda, the Historic District Commission suggested the owners and their architects go back to the drawing board and try again.
The owners of the building, located on Dodge Street across from the Red Bird and next to Persephone’s, did just that. This round, the presentation went much better, although Chair Bill Penn pointed out to the applicants that they were supposed to have produced a three dimensional model as requested at the last meeting.

Architect Glenn Gardiner of Newport Collaborative Architects told the HDC his firm had adjusted to the recommendations of the HDC and had an alternative scheme in mind. He said before making a 3-D model, the applicants wanted to “see if the massing direction is acceptable.”
Gardiner went on to explain that the owners have listened to the comments of the HDC and the public and reduced the proposed addition from 31 rooms to 12.
Currently, the building has 13 rooms and Gardiner said the intent was to reduce that to 10 rooms in the building, with two new rooms in new accessory cottages. The cottages will be similar to the cottage at the Gables, according to the architect.
Gardiner also said they would enclose the back staircase on the building to bring it up to code, and would convert the existing garage to a kitchen to accommodate the inn’s guests.
There will still be a dormer built on the back of the building, but overall, the project is much smaller in scope than the original proposal.

Member Martha Ball told the applicants they were making good progress, and Member Mark Vaillancourt said he “likes the little cottages.”
Gardiner told the commission that the front cottage will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, with wheelchair access from the sidewalk.

Member Arlene Tunney, though saying this current design is “far superior” to the previous one, pointed out that the dormer extends too close to the gable, only spaced three feet off the gable when the guidelines call for four feet.
Member Bill Koch said, “Cleaning up the back of that building, even if we have to give up a couple of feet (on the dormer) is still pretty good on our end.”
Penn reminded the group that “these are guidelines; we have wiggle room.”
The back of the building and its unique staircase, put in to accommodate various fire codes over the years, have generally been considered an eyesore by many people.

Concern was expressed by numerous members of the public regarding viewsheds. Several pointed out the current “peek-a-boo” view of the ocean pedestrians enjoy between the Persephone’s building and the Surfside. Gardiner acknowledged this view will be narrowed with the addition of the cottages. Owner Rob Blood told the commission that the cottages were designed to be shorter so as not to block the view from the second floor and to not block the view of the Gothic Inn.
There was general consensus among the commission members that the applicants were on the right track with the smaller design, and a three-dimensional model including the neighboring buildings is reportedly in the works for next month’s meeting.