NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 1, 2013

'historic' snag hits ale house

NEWBURYPORT — State historical officials have “recommended” to developers of the proposed Merrimac Ale House that they alter their architectural plans because they don’t coincide with proportion or historic uses of the property.

But lawyers for restaurateur Joseph Leone say they will meet with state historical commission members with the expectation that “the project will go forward.”

Brona Simon, executive director of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, recently wrote to lawyers for Leone, who is seeking to develop at 442-seat restaurant at 40 Merrimac St., stating that plans should be changed as part of the MHC’s “consultation process.”

Simon said, “The currently proposed design is overwhelming and incompatible, most specifically due to its size.”

The building that Leone purchased is the red structure at the base of Green Street, formerly housing Davis Auto Parts. Historically, it is known as the Richard W. Drown Building.

Leone, a restaurant operator and developer, has proposed to alter the structure and introduce the Merrimac Ale House. Architects had visualized an expansion of the building and the creation of an elevated outdoor deck that would permit diners to see the river.

In a letter dated Oct. 25, Simon said, “I have determined that the proposed design of the large three-story brick addition and the large glass addition will have an adverse effect on the Drown Building and the Newburport Historic District.”

The executive director added, “As currently designed, the proposed new construction dwarfs the Drown Building, and incorporates incompatible materials and architectural features, including a large glass enclosure with rooftop seating.”

A key aspect of the intercession of the state historical commission appears to be whether the building is part of the Newburyport Historic District — a district designated in 1984 by the federal government that encompasses most of the city’s old core, such as the downtown, South End and North End. There are an estimated 2,800 buildings in the district.

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