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NEWPORT — Water Brothers has called 39½ Memorial Boulevard home for nearly 30 years, except for two separate short stints on Broadway and a move to another location on Memorial.
Now the company must leave by March 19 to make way for the demolition of the building.
“I knew the writing was on the wall, but I was hoping to stay until the end of the year,” surf shop owner Sid Abbruzzi told the Daily News on Saturday.
Mark Brennan, owner of the building and the adjacent building at 37 Memorial Boulevard where Jimmy’s Saloon once stood, received demolition permits for both structures in February 2018.
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At the time, Brennan wrote on the permit application that he planned to build an “architecturally attractive new vacation facility of appropriate scale, with a total of 12 guest units,” instead. of the two buildings. The new facility will have four floors.
“The plan remains the same,” Brennan told the Daily News on Saturday.
The demolition of the two buildings will take place in April, he said, but he is unsure how soon construction can begin as the plan must go through the city’s “development plan review” process, where details like the exterior cladding of the building will be decided.
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“Once the International Tennis Hall of Fame revitalized this part of Memorial Boulevard, that plan became very clear,” Brennan said.
The Hall of Fame constructed two new buildings along Memorial Boulevard in 2015, one housing indoor tennis courts and the other housing a fitness center, offices and stores.
The design of the proposed building will echo Hall of Fame designs.
“We’re trying to complement what they’ve done, not copy it,” Brennan said when he presented the plan. “We’d like it to look like what you see in Boston’s Back Bay.”
The project is underway and has already overcome the obstacles
In early January 2020, the city’s Zoning Board of Review approved an 18-month extension to the project, essentially giving Brennan until mid-2021 “to substantially complete the project”.
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It had received a waiver from the Zoning Board at the end of 2018 on two loading docks required by the zoning ordinance. The resort won’t have a restaurant and won’t offer regular hotel services, so loading bays aren’t necessary, Brennan argued.
He said on Saturday he did not need another extension from the board because the design has been changed so the whole project is now cleared as of right.
The proposed 35-foot-tall building meets all requirements for the business headquarters in which it sits, Brennan said. The first and second floors will consist of four units of three bedrooms each.
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The third and fourth floors will consist of eight units, each containing two bedrooms. Each of the apartments will be between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet.
The plan is to rent the units on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Short-term rentals, which are defined as rentals of 29 days or less, are currently permitted as of right in the General Business, Waterfront Business and Limited Business districts.
The city council recently proposed an ordinance that would require landlords of short-term rentals in a limited business district to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Review. The same proposed ordinance would ban short-term rentals in all residential areas of the city.
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Brennan pointed out Saturday that her properties on Memorial Boulevard are one of the few places in the city where multi-unit buildings and short-term rentals are permitted.
“There has always been interest in the project,” Brennan said. When asked if he was selling the property, he replied: “I cannot confirm or deny that at this stage.”
Although her tenants believe a sale of the property is in the works, Brennan said, “It’s just guesswork.”
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Brennan’s properties extend to Merton Road. Residents will enter the resort property from Merton Road into a new parking lot with 19 parking spaces, which meets the city’s requirements for this building size of 1.5 spaces per unit and one space for one employee. As well as the two buildings, he has a third vacant plot on Merton Road, Brennan said on Saturday.
Jimmy’s Saloon and Water Brothers buildings will be demolished
The old Jimmy’s Saloon is in a one-and-a-half-story wood and concrete building at 37 Memorial Boulevard going downhill. The adjacent three-story wood and concrete block building is also the location of Apothecary Newport, Beauty Boutique & Spa at 39 Memorial Blvd., Besides Water Brothers at 39½.
Abbruzzi said he rented space in the building from 1993 until 2008, when he moved to Broadway. Then he moved to a building later demolished by the Tennis Hall of Fame, so he moved his business back to 39½ Memorial Boulevard.
When he first heard the building was going to be demolished, he moved to a second location on Broadway. When Brennan’s plan stalled, he returned to 39½ Memorial.
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From 1971 to 1993, Water Brothers was in a cabin that still exists in the parking lot of the Newport Beach House.
“We have no idea where we are going now,” Abbruzzi said on Saturday. “The prices for renting retail space in Newport are simply driving ordinary people out of business. We are not a big company. We just hope something comes through the front door in our next 40 days here.
“Water Brothers is entering its 51st year and is not going to go out of business as a brand or as a company,” Abbruzzi stressed. “We just need to find another physical location.”