New Plan For 11 Lion Street Could Save It

by | Apr 19, 2021

Above: Rendering of the proposed plan, including new paint colors, a dormer, and a redesigned front entrance.

The town’s Historic District Commission (HDC) heard a new renovation proposal for 11 Lion Street, the long- vacant Ropewalk Hill house whose owner is requesting its demolition (link HERE). The proposal, at the HDC meeting last Wednesday (4/14), was presented by architect David Sisson, on behalf of Tom and Kelly Clayton, owners of the Lido on Main building (link HERE). The commission received the new plan favorably and seemed grateful that it presents an alternative to demolition. 

The c. 1840 “Hart’s Block” building at 11 Lion Street is still owned by Cove Builders, the business of Gerry Zarrella Jr. and Gerry Zarrella Sr., but the Claytons are in negotiations to purchase the property. Their plan hinges on that deal going through—at the beginning of their meeting, the commission delayed an agenda item on Cove Builders’ request for approval on the building’s demolition.

Matthew McGeorge, the HDC’s new chair, thanked the Claytons for taking an interest in the building, referring to its “long and sordid history” of false starts and abandoned plans. The new layout will divide the building into 3 units, two split over the first two floors and a larger single unit spread across the whole third floor. A dormer will be added to the roof, the building entirely repainted, and the windows replaced.

The commission felt that for the residence, which once housed mill workers, simple geometry is key. Because the building was expanded twice, there are small inconsistencies in its presentation, and the commission debated whether the placement of new windows should reflect those idiosyncrasies or create a new, consistent order. McGeorge even suggested that the proposed pediment above the front door be made even more simple to reflect the building’s humble origins. 

Overall, their impression was positive. Commission member Andrew Barkley said that, since the building has been painted white for so long, he was at first taken aback by the oxblood red and black design, but it’s slowly grown on him. The meeting ended on a discussion of the windows and their replacement grills, with Tom Clayton joking that he’s now well aware of the HDC’s requirements (since the commission discussed the Lido on Main several times in recent months).

The Claytons’ company, Touchdown Realty Group, will also be going before the town zoning board, before they present their final plans to the HDC. The timeline is not currently set, but if their purchase goes through, a final design will likely be presented some time in the summer. 

11 Lion Street in February. The building is vacant – the owner has allowed neighbors to park there.


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