HDC reviewing two major hotel projects

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 6:15pm

The members of the Historic District Commission spent some time at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 25 going over plans for the new development that will be known as The Grove on Dodge Street.

Matunuck Design Group Landscape Architect Mark Butler and Newport Collaborative Architects principal Michael Abbott presented their proposal for the construction of a new structure for employee housing, and the relocation of one of the original Cutting Cottages that is on the site. The new barn will be on its own separate lot, the architects said, and not technically part of The Grove. A driveway will cut through the property for access. A model for the new barn was presented by Abbott, revealing the layout for the structure that will house the staff of The Surf and The Grove. 

The Cutting Cottage will be relocated “25 feet away from where it currently is,” noted Butler.

Lark Hotels purchased the Gables Inn and The Surf Hotel earlier this year with the goal of developing them as one resort called the Block Island Beach House. Lark Hotels intends to convert the old, historic Gables Inn on Dodge Street into a hotel property called “The Grove.”

If approved, The Grove would be located behind and adjacent to St. Andrew Church, with the back of the building towards Dodge Street and the front facing Chapel Street. Vegetation and trees currently surround the property, along with existing structures. The applicants noted the existing vegetation blocks the view of the new housing.

Concerns were shared among the board members about the proximity of the employee housing to Saint Andrew Catholic Church, as well as the size of the building, which will be the biggest structure within the complex.

HDC Vice Chair Martha Ball noted that the new barn “is no longer a hotel. It is affordable housing, and it doesn’t seem to fit into the parameters of affordable housing regarding height-wise and housing regulations.” 

The housing would help meet the demand for island employee housing, but the size and location of the housing proposal was questioned from some members of the HDC.

Ball said that “seasonal housing is a problem to the community,” but that the current proposal, which puts all of the employee housing in one structure, might “need to be broken up,” said Ball.

Board member Arlene Tunney noted the new construction faced zoning issues and “doesn’t seem to fit into the parameters.”

Abbott, one of the architects, said “the houses have to be attached to meet the zoning requirements. We need to give housing to our clients. We are looking to satisfy their demand and to have all our staff on this property.”

The housing would contain 60 beds, with kitchens, laundry, lobby and storage rooms, and parking spaces.

The applicants were asked to come back with a new plan detailing staff housing, which the applicants noted would not be ready for the 2020 season.

The members of the HDC voted to continue the discussion at its next meeting. The architects were asked to return with revised plans, and a revised model with the housing unit broken up.

Additions to the Hotel Manisses

New additions and alterations are proposed for adjacent to The Hotel Manisses, which is currently a multi-story hotel and restaurant.

Blake Filippi, co-owner of the Hotel Manisses, presented the application to construct a new three-story structure on an existing footprint at the Spring Street location.

“The intent is to add additional hotel rooms, with the intent to utilize and improve our business,” said Filippi. 

Abbott, of Newport Collaborative Architects, also the lead architect for The Grove project, will be overseeing the designs on this project. Abbott said the “building dimensions will be the same” as the current Hotel Manisses.

Concerns on the height of the new addition were shared by some HDC members, noting that the new building’s dimensions appeared higher than the existing hotel — at least in the drawings.

HDC Chair William Penn, said he wanted to see a model to better understand the dimensions of the proposal.

“We should be given a model showing all the properties on High Street, so we can see this thing in perspective because it seems very large,” said Penn. “I think before we can judge the sighting and massing we need to see the surrounding properties and buildings.”

“I think we need to continue this to get a better design to the addition and then add a model to get an idea of the surrounding buildings,” said Penn.

The application discussion was continued to the next meeting. The applicants were asked to come back with revisions and a new model or computer simulation of the addition and surrounding buildings. Tunney noted “it would be nice to see the relationship to the houses behind it and to the (Harbor) church.”

New refrigeration at the BIG

Mary Jane Balser, co-owner of The Block Island Grocery, presented her application for new additions to the Ocean Avenue location.

Balser stated the grocery needs new rooftop construction and a new walk-in refrigeration unit that would be located on the east elevation of the BIG.

The plans to modify the structure were originally for a two-story addition, but were reduced to a one-story addition.

The BIG, originally built in the 1970s, serves not only as a grocery store, but has office space,and apartments for employees.

Balser’s application was approved.

The next HDC meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.