WEST – The owners of the Venice restaurant on Shore Road plan to expand their business by renovating the current building, constructing two new buildings and adding 32 hotel rooms and a conference center with business facilities, a swimming pool and a fitness center.
A team of representatives presented the pre-application plans to the Planning Board on Tuesday on behalf of the owners, the DiMarco family’s Florentine Realty LLC. Joseph and Nunzio DiMarco attended the meeting. The plans are similar to those that received Zoning Board of Review approval in 2012. The family also owns the nearby Winnapaug Inn.
Current plans call for the demolition of two houses adjacent to the restaurant property and the amalgamation of the three lots into one lot. The family owns the two residences. The two new buildings would be to the west and connected to the existing building. The existing 117-seat banquet hall would be moved to the lower level. The first floor, where the restaurant and bar are located, would be unchanged. Eight two-bedroom hotel suites would be built on the second and third floors. The proposed building to the immediate west would include a 290-seat banquet hall on the lower level and 14 hotel suites on the first through third floors. The swimming pool and fitness center would be in the proposed westernmost building with 12 hotel suites on floors one through three.
While the project will require variation in height, project architect Peter Springsteel said the third floors of the new buildings are designed to be integrated with the roofline to reduce the height and mass of the buildings. The roofs of all the buildings would be uniform, according to the plans.
The company also plans to apply for a waiver of city parking regulations to allow for increased landscaping, said Elizabeth Noonan, the attorney representing Florentine Realty LLC on the project.
Board members offered a mix of praise and concern when screening the application on Tuesday.
“From my point of view, the proximity to the street and the ground is a little big. I am very favorable to this kind of use in the sector and I like the kind of things that you offer, but we don’t have nothing like it from a character perspective along this street,” said board member Joseph M. Montesano.
Justin Hopkins, chairman of the Planning Board, suggested reducing the number of entrances to the project site and developing a more “ceremonial” entrance as a way to improve security and address “mass issues”. Hopkins also praised the DiMarco family for developing a project that would help the city’s efforts to provide businesses and amenities that can be used year-round rather than focusing on the warmer months and summer tourism.
Board member Tabitha Harkin said she shared Montesano’s view and also welcomed the proposed emphasis on landscaping in the parking area.
Board member Christopher Lawlor said he wasn’t sure the “massiveness” of the project would fit into the area and wondered if it would harm nearby residences. Noonan said the project will adhere to all local regulations, including ensuring lighting does not negatively affect neighbours.
Among the approvals the project will need is one from the State Coastal Resource Management Board due to the project site’s proximity to Winnapaug Pond.