Details told of two downtown projects
by Jack Deming
May 18, 2014 | 4323 views | 0 0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Re-development plans for the Wilmington Home Center and Professional Building include connecting the two structures and turning them into retail and lodging space.
Re-development plans for the Wilmington Home Center and Professional Building include connecting the two structures and turning them into retail and lodging space.
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WILMINGTON- The development review board had to recess a hearing Monday night, one that detailed plans by Connecticut-based real estate group Lorista Holdings LLC for renovating, connecting, and reconstructing the former Wilmington Home Center, and the Professional Building next to it. The board did, however, close a hearing with the same applicants, regarding the renovation of another downtown property, the Vermont House on West Main Street.

Lorista Holdings co-owner Michael Riccio, architect Jonathan Saccoccio, and builder Brian Dupuis presented the board with their plans for renovation of the 4,720-square-foot Vermont House. According to Riccio, these plans will maintain the building’s historical integrity, and also restore its signature signage. Riccio’s plan is to return the building to its former use as an inn, while removing the current restaurant space. According to Riccio, removing the restaurant will allow those who patronize the inn to dine at the many already established downtown eateries.

The exterior of the Vermont House will not undergo any significant changes, however a handicap ramp will be installed along the east side of the building, connecting the sidewalk to a rear entrance. The front of the building will see wider, “more inviting” stairs installed, while the rear deck will be removed. To maintain the building’s current look, the building will also be repainted its current white with black trim, and the front doors will be refurbished and reinstalled. The front porch on both the first and third floors will be replaced, while higher railings will be installed for improved safety. New, energy-efficient windows are also slated for the project, as well as snow stoppers to be installed on the edges of the roof.

According to the application, “Every attempt will be made to make sure that anything new is as close to the original as possible.”

The interior of the building, however, will undergo a complete redesign. While the fourth floor will be a three-bedroom apartment for an inkeeper, the first floor will have the dining room and kitchen replaced with two handicap-accessible rooms and a mechanical room, and the current bar area will be redesigned as a lobby and living room. The second and third floors will consist of eight rooms, each with its own bathroom.

Business-owning abutters Lisa Sullivan and Lilias Hart both said they supported the plans, but each had concerns. Sullivan wondered what type of runoff a planned retaining wall behind the building would create, and Hart wondered about parking for the inn, which currently has no on-site parking. Riccio said that the wall had not been designed yet but neighbors’ concerns were a priority, and that patrons of the inn, including the handicapped, would most likely use the town parking lot on the south side of the street.

Adam Grinold, executive director of Wilmington Works, also spoke as an interested party and as a “voice of support” for those property owners downtown who could not be there.

Assistant fire chief Richard Covey asked if Riccio would install outdoor sprinklers between the Vermont House and Bartleby’s to the west, due to their proximity. Fire chief Ken March explained that there was such a system used between the town hall and the Maple Leaf Brewery, and Riccio agreed that he could make such arrangements.

The DRB was satisfied with the information provided and closed the hearing. The board will have 45 days to respond with a decision and any restrictions they may put on the project.

Lorista’s second project includes the renovation of two buildings on East Main Street, which they plan to connect, and use for both retail and lodging purposes. In their plans, the Professional Building and former home center at 1 and 3 East Main Street would feature retail space on each building’s first floor, while the top two floors will be used for lodging.

Two buildings, equaling 2,500 square feet, would need to be constructed in order to complete Lorista’s proposed plans. The first building would be constructed where a current, dilapidated structure stands connected to the professional building. In its place would be a new building housing an elevator for access to the second and third floor lodging, as well as a staircase. The plans also include a small connector between the two buildings, set back from the road 30 feet. Riccio said the reason for the brick-design connector’s setback location was to keep each of the buildings’ appearances individual while still being able to connect them. The connector would provide access from the elevator and stairs on the east side of the building to the lodging in the building to the west.

According to Saccoccio, the two additions will also be necessary in order to meet access compliance for lodging, which requires two forms of ascent, as well as handicap accessibility. Riccio told the board that the construction of the connector hinges upon the approval of the home center’s former owner, who still has a right of access between the buildings. Riccio also explained that he has been in conversation with town manager Scott Murphy, as well as abutting property owners, about the possibility of rearranging parking at the rear of the building to facilitate a better flow of traffic, as well as fire truck accessibility.

As for aesthetics, Riccio said that the yellow vinyl siding would be stripped from the corner building, and windows would be installed on the west end to better highlight the existence of future retail. In the Professional Building, an interior middle staircase would be demolished as well, to make more room for first floor retail.

In all, lodging in the top two floors would include 16 hotel rooms plus an apartment for an inkeeper. The top floor porch on the corner building would also be rebuilt, and two more doors would be added for more porch access than the one current door. Just like the Vermont House, however, Riccio said his group is trying not to change tradition. “We’re making sure at great length to make the two buildings look original,” said Riccio.

March said that the fire department fully supported downtown development, but had to make sure their concerns were both voiced and met. “Access for the fire department, from a life safety standpoint, is critical,” said March. “If the full first floor is retail, you may have parking and mechanical in the back with lodging upstairs.” March compared getting a fire truck behind the buildings to getting a tour bus in the location.

DRB chair Peter Wallace told Riccio that he would need to make sure that the plans comply with historic designation guidelines. “It is very important to keep that designation,” said Wallace. “Flood insurance rates go through the roof if you lose that designation.” Wallace also thanked Riccio for the amount of design and planning brought before the board, but said the meeting would only serve as informational for the time being, until issues such as historic designation, fire safety issues, and discussions about rights of way were completed.
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