NEWPORT — Owners of the planned 21-room Manchester Hotel on Lee’s Wharf expect to begin construction this summer with a grand opening targeted for 2023.
The hotel will have a restaurant on the second floor with a liquor license. The co-owners of the hotel, Howard Cushing of Ocean Avenue and Wirt Blaffer of Houston, Texas, have purchased the license held by 8-10 Broadway LLC, the address of the former restaurant Hope on Broadway.
The City Council, sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, will take up the transfer to Bloody Bull LLC, owned by Cushing and Blaffer, on April 14.
While the Manchester Hotel received Planning Board approval in 2020 and a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Review on Jan. 11 this year, it still needs a permit from the state Coastal Resources Management Council, according to attorney David Martland.
The CRMC permitting process is expected to be completed in two to three months, said Martland, who represented the hotel owners throughout the process. While the CRMC process can be lengthy, Martland does not believe a hearing will be necessary because the owners are not seeking any variances.
Geralyn Small, an engineer with Northeast Engineers and Consultants, Inc., of Middletown, testified before the Zoning Board the project meets all the rules and regulations of both CRMC and the state Department of Environmental Protection. Stormwater management and drainage on the site would be greatly improved by the project, she said.
The hotel owners have agreed to install an 8-foot wide Harbor Walk along the western boundary of the property, which is parallel and close to the waterfront. Newport Marina owns a narrow strip of land on the waterfront where docks for yachts are located.
The owners also will install a sidewalk along Lee’s Wharf at the northern edge of the property. The hotel will be elevated with parking underneath.
Architect Daniel Herchenroether designed the hotel so the first floor will have screening on the façade and the parking area is not visible. The hotel will have 50 onsite parking spaces for guests and employees.
The site of the planned hotel is currently a three-quarters acre vacant parking lot between Lee’s Wharf to the north and Howard Wharf to the south. There is a small building on the site that will be razed. Cushing, through one of his companies, 44 Ocean Partners LLC, purchased the property in August 2019 for $3 million.
The BETA Group of Lincoln completed a traffic safety analysis study for the hotel.
The small-scale hotel would generate about 14 trips during morning hours on any given day and about 16 trips during afternoon and evening hours, according to BETA.
“This should be a reduction in traffic to and from the site on a daily basis during the peak seasonal conditions in Newport, knowing the property currently is a parking lot containing over 90 parking spaces for use by the general public,” the study said.
“The proposed hotel is anticipated to yield improved operations along Lee’s Wharf with less traffic and managed parking for hotel guests,” the study said.
The proposed hotel met all zoning code requirements, including height limitations, setbacks, lot coverage and parking, according to the Zoning Board decision. The site is within the Waterfront Business District.
The property is not in one of the city’s historic districts under the jurisdiction of the city’s Historic District Commission, but it is within the federally recognized Southern Thames Historic District. The concrete building on the site is not a “contributing resource” to the district.
The proposed hotel is just south of the large Brown & Howard Condominiums and just north of The Reef restaurant and Newport Marina property that abuts the hotel property lines to the north and west.
Martland said the owners met with abutters who were concerned about the appearance of the hotel. “My clients are building a very attractive building that conforms to the character of the Newport waterfront,” he said.
Abutters were also “concerned primarily with traffic safety and the screening of mechanical equipment,” according to the Zoning Board decision.
The owners agreed to improve the right-of-way along Lee’s Wharf, Martland said. There was no expert testimony offered in opposition to the proposal, the Zoning Board decision said.
Recently proposed and constructed hotels, all of them larger than the Manchester Hotel, have generated more opposition.
Thomas Abruzese of Yonkers, New York, the main owner of the western end of Waites Wharf, has proposed constructing a 150-room hotel there. That has generated significant and ongoing opposition from neighbors.
The Planning Board is currently considering demolition permits for Waites Wharf buildings that would make way for the hotel, but a long permitting process before the Zoning Board, DEM and CRMC must be successfully completed before any demolition is allowed.
Though not as much as the project at Waites Wharf, there also was opposition to the Hammetts Hotel — an 84-room hotel with a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and 3,000 square feet of retail space — and the Brenton Hotel, a 57-room hotel with a small restaurant and social area. Both of those hotels opened last summer.