Developer Revises Plans For "New Downtown" On Sparks Avenue

Jason Graziadei •

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The developers who have proposed a major commercial development along Sparks Avenue that they dubbed the "new downtown" have submitted a revised plan to the Nantucket Planning Board, but are still forging ahead with a concept that has been met with criticism over the past year, and would dramatically alter the mid-island area's commercial hub.

Rather than three separate buildings as they had previously proposed, developers Christopher Fiumara and Daniel Najarian are seeking permits to construct a single, 63,200 square-foot building that would stretch from 18 to 26 Sparks Avenue, including the area where The Downyflake restaurant is currently located.

According to the latest proposal, the mixed-use building would include four floors (with three above grade) featuring dedicated spaces for a 50-seat restaurant, another take-out food establishment, along with a bank/office space, a six-lane bowling alley with an arcade, and 34 apartment units totaling 62 bedrooms.

The development's 94 parking spaces would be located on either side, and behind the main building. The Planning Board will get its first look at the revised proposal at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 13.

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Fiumara and Najarian are the co-founders of the Boston-based Crowd Lending Inc., a commercial real estate lender. Property records show their partners in the project include Jared Gerstenblatt and Christopher Grimaldi, managing partners of the New York brokerage firm Chimera Securities. Together they spent $10.75 million to purchase the Downyflake property and three surrounding parcels on the west side of Sparks Avenue.

First proposed in the early spring of 2021, the development has already been the subject of numerous Planning Board hearings in which it has been met with criticism. The late Judith Wegner, the former chair of the Planning Board, called the initial submission "decidedly un-Nantucket like."

Fiumara has previously said it is his intention to retain The Downyflake as part of the new development, and the documents submitted to the Planning Board do show a space carved out for the longtime island restaurant.

“I’ve been coming to the island since I was 15-years-old, I’m a part-time resident who is there a lot in the winter,” said Fiumara told the Current last year. “I know the needs of the island. This is pro-Nantucket. It’s for Nantucket residents, geared for year-round residents.”

In a letter attached to the current submission, site engineer Dan Mulloy said the development would also include electric vehicle charging stations incorporated into the parking lot design, bicycle racks to encourage alternative modes of transportation, and a transit incentive program for employees to further reduce vehicle trips to the site.

"We are working with the Department of Public Works, Sewer Department and Wannacomet Water Company relative to the availability of applicable stormwater, sewer and water utilities and any needed system upgrades," Mulloy said. "We have also had a meeting with the Department of Public works to review proposed roadway and sidewalk improvements within Sparks Ave and how this project can best integrate with that plan."

Some letters have already been submitted to the Planning Board outlining concerns from neighbors and others about the plans.

"It seems a very staggering number of units in one area and one building...all which need parking for tenants and guests which cannot be predicted," Val Oliver wrote. "In conclusion, this area is used by everyone on the Island, having the main grocery story and other useful amenities. I welcome the idea of introducing new businesses and things to do, however, not at the expense of the existing fabric of people and places. This project needs to be scaled it down, I am sure there will still be profit in the end and existing mid island residents will be amenable to the inevitable change of their home."

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