By JOHN HOWELL
The Warwick Historic District Commission won’t consider a plan to convert the former Hunter’s Garage on the Warwick side of the Pawtuxet Village bridge into six housing …
By JOHN HOWELL
The Warwick Historic District Commission won’t consider a plan to convert the former Hunter’s Garage on the Warwick side of the Pawtuxet Village bridge into six housing units plus a restaurant this month, or next month and maybe not for some time Anthony Albanese of Albaco, LLC said Friday.
The proposal had been docketed to be heard Wednesday but was removed last Thursday following a flurry of emails questioning the impact of the development on Pawtuxet Village and when the Warwick City Council would consider a zone change allowing the multi-use plan.
Judging from what Albanese had to say and the lack of a rezoning application requiring City Council approval, it could be some time before a plan is submitted for review. Albanese said he had heard concerns that the proposed two-story addition to the garage as being too big, adding, “It’s still a beautiful building and it belongs there.” Nonetheless, he will look at possible revisions to his plan as well as listen to suggestions.
He offered no timetable, saying he might even rent it out as a garage for a time.
The process calls for the plan to come before the Zoning Board for pre-application review followed by HDC review and recommendations before consideration by the zoning board. The zoning board would then send its position and recommendations to the council to approve or deny a zoning change.
Plans for the former garage have been revised since Albaco advanced a proposal for a restaurant with a cantilevered deck over the river bank facing north toward Cranston that raised issues with state authorities. The proposed building’s appearance gains favorable reviews as being complementary to the colonial character of the village, but its size and questions over parking have raised red flags.
Ginny Leslie, whose historic home would be in the shadow of the development, called the proposal “an insult” to the village. “This thing is way too big,” she said. As proposed, she said the development would be three times the size of O’Rourke’s that is across the street. She would favor the development of two to three houses on the site, suggesting they could share a common driveway to parking in the rear. A board member of the Pawtuxet Village Association and the HDC, Leslie is appreciative of an analysis of the proposal undertaken by former Warwick City Planner and Pawtuxet resident Jonathan Stevens.
In his report, Stevens says the proposed retro Second Empire architectural style building would require 14 waivers from the Zoning Code, “including reducing or eliminating required landscape buffers and screening in favor of placing parking spaces right up to the street.”
He notes, The RI Historical Preservation Pawtuxet Village Historic Resources Survey states: “Fourteen architecturally noteworthy houses dating before the American Revolution line Post Road leading south from the bridge…The lower section of the village includes a very strong node at the intersection of Post Road and Narragansett Parkway…The above features represents elements of townscape that contribute in a positive manner to the visual and environmental character of Pawtuxet Village. They should be recognized and protected.”
Stevens concludes, “The massing and height of the proposed building is not compatible with the scale of the significant surrounding historic properties. It would overwhelm the streetscape and viewed from the north it would obscure historic vistas of the period architecture which is as authentic as is found on Benefit Street in Providence or the Point section in Newport.”
In a telephone interview, Stevens said Albaco “did a nice job in terms of architectural features.” But it is the “massing” of the project that is out of place with Pawtuxet. He raised the issue of sufficient parking for tenants and businesses.
“It would be hard to imagine the HDC would approve that,” he said.
What does Stevens see as working for the site?
“I would think two stories so you don’t overwhelm the neighborhood,” he said. He thought five residential units and a “breakfast nook” would be compatible.
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