DOWNTOWN: City to rescue for hotel?

Façade grant may do trick to win permit

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Executive Editor

The Facts

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ST. ALBANS CITY — The St. Albans City Council is proposing to provide as much as $180,000 in a façade grant for a Hampton Inn on Lake Street.

The developer, PeakCM, plans to begin construction of the 88-room facility on April 1, but must first win approval of the Development Review Board (DRB). The DRB granted a permit in October, but required several changes to the façade, primarily an increased use of brick and less use of metal siding.

In response, PeakCM and the city, which is an equity investor in the project, hired White + Burke, an architectural firm, to represent them during the permit proceedings and asked for a reconsideration of the board’s decision.

PeakCM has come back with a proposed design that incorporates many of the elements required by the DRB, which also had taken recommendations from the Design Advisory Board (DAB). The DAB is charged with advising the DRB on the aesthetics of projects planned for the city’s historic district.

The front of the building has an off-center bumped out section (see accompanying image) in which the entrance is located. PeakCM originally proposed brick extending to the third floor over the main entrance and two stories of brick on the rest of the south and east faces.

The building is five stories tall and PeakCM proposed using metal siding on the remaining stories on the south and east sides and on the entirety of the north side. The west side will not be visible to the public.

The DAB asked for at least one more story of brick on both the south and east sides.

The DRB permit required brick on the five stories in the bump out and asked that the brick be extended to the rear entrance, which is located on the east side of the north façade.

PeakCM offered a counter proposal, which would take brick to the fourth floor of the bump out, with the fifth floor having a stone façade similar to that used around the base of the building. “It will consist of a high quality masonry material, allow for an appropriate massing of red brick, and in our opinion is a more balanced and appealing design,” David White wrote as part of the revised proposal to the DRB.

On the east side, the DRB had required three full stories of brick. PeakCM is proposing to use brick on three stories on the south half and then reducing it to two stories on the north half. In between there is a vertical line of windows.

The two stories of brick would continue around the corner to the rear entrance.

The revised design incorporates other elements required by the DRB, such as extending the concrete along the base of the front façade along its entire length and replacing metal around the windows on the front with brick.

The DRB decision on the revised design is expected this week.

At its meeting on Monday night, the St. Albans City Council authorized the mayor to sign a revised agreement with PeakCM which includes the proposed façade grant.

The funds for the façade grant and the $1 million investment in the hotel are coming from the city’s economic development fund, which was created with proceeds from the sale of the property where the new state office building is now located to the ReArch Company. Even with the investments in the hotel, the fund will still have $1.3 million remaining, according to city manager Dominic Cloud.

The city owns the lot at 43 Lake St., which it intends to sell to PeakCM for $1. The revised agreement allows for the city to repurchase the property for the same amount if the project does not go forward.

In addition, the city will invest up to $250,000 in site improvements, such as the removal of urban or unstable soils, and will complete the streetscape improvements on Lake Street at the same time as the hotel construction.

The closing is planned for Dec. 1.