GROTON -- On the heels of the successful start to the Boynton Meadows subdivision project down the street, a group of investors has electrified residents with plans to rebuild the historic Groton Inn.
Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC have entered into a purchase and sales agreement with landowner George Pergantis to buy the 8.5-acre lot that straddles the heart of downtown and was the site of a fire that consumed the old Groton Inn.
Meeting with the Historic Districts Commission Tuesday, Cooper vowed to rebuild the inn as close to its original appearance as possible.
Cooper, with local consultant John Amaral, met with the HDC to discuss issues of historical replication planned for the new building as well as to seek the commission's support for a concept plan to be presented to voters for approval at next month's fall Town Meeting.
"This is just a first step," Amaral informed commissioners.
"There's a lot of work remaining but we felt it was important because the project lay in the heart of the historic district to come to you and seek your support."
"What we want to do," explained Cooper, noting his extensive experience in renovating historic homes in Marblehead, "is to get as close as we can to a replica of the original inn building. We're really excited about it."
In addition to the 51,208-square-foot, 24-room inn building, Cooper said that the initial concept plan presented to commissioners Tuesday also included up to 30 separate cottages to be constructed in the rear.
For those, a dozen units would be built over the area where the property's current carriage house is located and be rented to tenants on a long-term basis.
As rentals, some of the units, said Cooper, could be counted toward the town's affordable housing.
On the opposite side of the property, the remainder of the planned cottages would be built in two phases with the pace of construction depending on how good business is.
The first phase would include creation of another half-dozen cottages to be rented on a short-term basis, the same as any room in the inn would be.
Beside the new inn building, which would also include a 50-seat restaurant, a new carriage house would be built with a caretaker's residence on an upper floor.
Until recently, landowner George Pergantis had applied for and won a special permit to turn the existing carriage house into a seafood restaurant.
That plan now appears to be on hold pending the sale of the property.
Should the sale be completed some time next year, Cooper confirmed that the existing carriage house and apartment buildings on the property would all be demolished to make way for the new construction.
Commission Chairman Daniel Barton reminded Cooper of the importance residents had attached to the former inn and that commissioners had tried to salvage the ground floor which survived the fire relatively intact.
Although that effort failed, some artifacts from the building had been saved with the hope that some day they might be restored to a rebuilt inn. Cooper said he was not unopposed to the idea.
Replication of the inn, continued Barton, should be exact or not done at all with the most important portion being the front of the building facing Main Street with less attention to detail being paid to the remainder the farther back on the property it went.
"I think we're all going to be challenged in getting it back to the way it looked before," said Barton, noting changes in the town's building codes since the original inn was built in the 1600s, which could present problems of faithfulness. "So I think we should establish early on in the design process if this is going to be a replication or just something close."
Barton told Cooper that the original inn had been built in stages over the years, giving it a rich history in which to choose from when considering the needs of modern construction such as height and HVAC.
"This is going to be a high-profile project for this town," Barton said.
"It'll be a challenge to replicate the inn exactly but I think I'm up to it," said Cooper.
"If we're going to do it, let's do it right," said Barton.
Also Tuesday, commissioners took under consideration a plan by Al Collins, who has been working for the past couple of years restoring the historic Boutwell House, headquarters of the Groton Historical Society, to build an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved walkway leading to a side entrance of the Main Street building.
"The last piece of the puzzle is accessibility," said Collins.
The walkway would involve a gentle slope and zig-zag up to a new porch area that Collins said would become the main entrance to the building.
The 4-foot wide walkway would be amply landscaped with plants and be accompanied by a single handicapped parking space close by.
"It's a great project and a good solution to addressing the accessibility issue," said Barton. The walkway would be tucked behind the house and mostly unseen from Main Street.
The commission was expected to vote on the application at a future meeting.
As for the Boutwell House, with renovation work completed, Collins said an open house was being planned for Oct. 5.