Step Lane in downtown Nantucket is still scarred from the devastating fire at the Veranda House hotel last July, and the site where the historic lodging establishment once stood remains vacant and barren. But last week, the owners of the Veranda House filed plans to rebuild the structure almost exactly as it was before the hotel burned to the ground on July 9, 2022.
The Historic District Commission (HDC) got its first look at the plans filed by the Procaccianti Companies, the Rhode Island real estate investment firm that owns the Veranda House. They show a structure that largely resembles what existed before the fire - including the classic verandas and railings that wrapped around the eastern and southern sides of the building.
“This is the Veranda House proposed to be reconstructed pretty much as it was prior to the fire,” said the town’s preservation planner Holly Backus. “I’m happy to see this. I have no concerns, and I hope the (Historic District) Commission is pleasantly surprised.”
As currently designed, the new hotel will have 19 rooms, just as the old Veranda House did.
Backus told the commissioners that many of the historic details of the Veranda House prior to its modern renovations before the fire had been brought back, and she praised the project team for being proactive in reaching out to town staff to review the concept as early as last October.
The plans were completed by Union Studio architecture firm, and received a largely positive response from the (HDC) in its initial review on Jan. 24.
“Well done,” said HDC chair Ray Pohl.
Union Studio managing partner Douglas Kallfelz presented the plans to the HDC, stating that goal was to “replicate the original” while making minor changes and upgrades to meet modern building and life safety codes. Due to those considerations, the architects brought the two sets of fire stairs that had previously been on the exterior of the building inside the structure. A shed dormer and faux balcony have been added to the west side of the hotel to allow for a required elevator capable of providing access to all floors of the building. The only change to the envelope of the building was a two-foot increase to the eastern facade of the structure, pushing it farther out into the lawn along North Water Street.
Several HDC members and neighbors of the building had questions and minor concerns regarding the addition of the dormer and balcony, but no major objections were raised over the plans.
Attorney Arthur Reade, who represents the Procaccianti Companies, said that Nantucket’s zoning code allowed his client to rebuild the structure without seeking zoning relief even though the structure would be non-conforming.
“Under the Nantucket zoning bylaw, in the event of a disaster, we are entitled to rebuild within two years following the event that has caused the demolition of the structure,” Reade said. “We have met with the planning staff and building commissioner, and unless we’re going to be dealing with any new non-conformities, we do not need zoning relief in order to proceed with the application. Setbacks are not being increased, and we’re not moving closer into any setbacks. As things stand, there’s nothing that’s going to require zoning relief for this project.”
The HDC voted unanimously to hold another review of the plans and asked the architects to make some minor revisions.
The historic Veranda House, which dates back to 1882, burned down on July 9, 2022, after an employee discarded a cigarette into the trash area below the first floor deck. All 36 guests miraculously made it out of the inferno alive, and firefighters contained the blaze to the hotel and two neighboring homes, which also sustained significant damage.