HDC Weighs Norman’s Facelift, So. Pierce Farmhouse Plan, Blu ‘Sound Box’

by | Jul 27, 2021

Above: Plans for the rebuilt farmhouse at 62 South Pierce.

The Historic District Commission’s lengthy July agenda included several notable properties, including the renovation of the former Norman’s on Main Street, a plan to rebuild the McKenna farmhouse on South Pierce, and a seasonal bandstand to mitigate live music sounds at Blu on the Water, and the five-unit replacement planned for 104 Duke St. Here’s a rundown:

It’s been a long road for developer Tom Primeau, who has been working on building residential housing at 62 South Pierce Road – aka the McKenna property – since 2017. His original plan called for 16 units; a settlement with the town after ligation (read more HERE) brought the unit count down to 8 earlier this year. But there remained a question of how Primeau would handle the historic but completely dilapidated farmhouse. Determined to be unsalvageable (at least at any reasonable cost), the house will be torn down and replaced with a “house” that will include two units, with the very historically significant chimney recreated and the exteriors to match original materials. 

“This is the best possible outcome,” said McGeorge. “What you’ve done with that structure is about as good as could have been expected.”

That said, the application was continued to the Aug. 11 meeting over some changes to how the reconstructed house attaches to the garage.

155 Main Street in the mid-1900s.

Norman’s Tap, at 155 Main St., has been boarded up for several years. The owner of the property has slowly been renovating the back apartments and has now turned his sights to the former restaurant and bar. The idea, according to architect Shahin Barzin, is to restore the front to something more closely resembling the original facade. That would include getting rid of the multi-colored brick that was added at some point, replacing it with brick to match the brick seen on the second floor of the building. 

Barzin said a new sign for a yet-to-be-determined restaurant planned for the space would strongly echo the existing neon sign.

“The property owner is planning to do the same kind of neon and font lighting with the new name of the restaurant,” he said. 

The panel approved the plan, 4-0, with Chair Matthew McGeorge noting, “The improvements to the facade are considerable.”

Another item on the HDC agenda was a “sound mitigation enclosure/bandstand” for Blu on the Water at 20 Water Street, as proposed by the federal court mediator working with Blu and the Town of East Greenwich on a resolution to litigation brought by Blu over the town’s changes last year to its noise ordinance. The enclosure falls under the HDC purview because that property is part of the historic district. The plan would have the structure in place during the summer season; it would be removed and stored off-site the rest of the year. 

“The benefit of this would be so significant,” said McGeorge. “The materiality of it, the massing … I don’t have a problem with.”

Board members agreed – they approved the proposal in a 4-0 vote. Blu hopes to have the enclosure up and in use this season, so its sound mitigating potential can be vetted.

“We want to gain the approval of the HDC so we can go forward and address the issues that we’ve been trying to address for quite some time,” said Blu lawyer Jeff Gladstone.

The 5-townhouse plan for 104 Duke Street

The HDC also reviewed a conceptual design for five townhouses to replace the existing structure at 104 Duke Street, which was approved for demolition in 2020. The previous owner received permission to demolish the structure in 2020 but then had second thoughts. Ultimately, however, he sold the project to Touchdown Realty, which presented the plan for the five townhouses to the HDC at the July meeting. The panel was largely enthusiastic about the proposal but Zoning Board approval is still pending (the ZBR application was continued to August). The HDC application was continued to Aug. 11.

The proposal for a renovated 29 Lion Street.

In another Touchdown Realty application, the HDC reviewed the conceptual design for 29 Lion Street, a long vacant Greek Revival house that has fallen into significant disrepair in recent years. The plan is a complete renovation of the property and an addition of two dormers. Touchdown Realty is also behind plans for 11 Lion Street  that would renovate that struture, which was proposed for demolition by the previous owner. The HDC was largely pleased with the plan for 29 Lion St. 

“This is a fantastic first step,” said McGeorge. “Lion Street is going to look good!” said member Erinn Calise.

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