BAR HARBOR — Hotelier Tom Walsh’s $13 million West Street Hotel is one step closer to opening for business, after gaining approval from the board overseeing the appearance of all buildings downtown.
By a vote of 3-0, design review board (DRB) members approved the latest design for the façade of the hotel at their June 14 meeting. The approval came after a weekly series of meetings with Mr. Walsh and his team of designers and attorneys that began this spring after town officials noticed that the appearance of the hotel did not match images approved by the DRB last year.
While acknowledging that the 60-plus changes that have been made to the design since the time the process began on May 10 are a positive development, DRB member Steve Demers said that he still had misgivings about some major pieces of the building’s façade. Those pieces, however, are too tied in with the structure of the building to change now, he said, which is frustrating.
“There have been a lot of issues that we’ve had to deal with in the last five weeks related to the change in the building, a change in the building that should have been brought to us long before it was,” he said. “It’s placed a huge burden on the board and the town…and the applicant, to come to terms with it now.”
During the meeting, board members and Bill Walsh of the West Street Hotel went over a number of specifics. Mr. Walsh agreed to remove two more balconies from a section in order to try to break up what DRB member Barbara Sassaman called the “absolute horizontality” of the building.
“We really appreciate all your time and input. It’s really helped us and it’s helped the building,” Mr. Walsh said.
The West Street Hotel has been under construction for one year, since Mr. Walsh’s Ocean Properties company gained approval for the structure in the spring of 2011. The hotel was originally to have over 100 rooms and a two-story parking garage along Rodick Street.
The garage, however, is not to be built. Ocean Properties is hoping to reach agreement with the town on a public/private parking garage on a town-owned site adjacent to the hotel. In the meantime, a paved parking lot will be installed along Rodick Street, and the number of rooms in the hotel reduced to 85 to comply with the number of spaces that will be available.
Ocean Properties will need a certificate of occupancy from the town’s code enforcement officer before they can open to the public. Hotel officials have stated that they hope to open this month.