MVC approves Harbor View hotel expansion

New rooms and improved parking are part of the plan.

The Harbor View Hotel has been sold and will undergo renovations. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated 6/23

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a major renovation proposal to the Harbor View Hotel at Thursday’s meeting, and decided it did not require a formal hearing.

The proposed renovation includes adding 26 rooms to the original 120 rooms, as well as an additional seven parking spaces to the 90 existing spaces in order to accommodate the increase in guests.

A previous proposal approved by the commission in 2008, which would have replaced the Mayhew building with five small cottages, is being scrapped. Instead, the entire exterior will be renovated, and the porches surrounding the building will be enclosed.

The renovation will add almost 50,000 square feet to the hotel, as well as a valet parking area for guests during events.

The proposal was made after Bernard Chiu, founder and chairman of the Upland Capital Corp. and a seasonal Edgartown resident, purchased the hotel and made plans to increase its overall usage. Chiu owns a house adjacent to the hotel on North Water Street.

He purchased the hotel after a group of neighbors and seasonal residents saved it from foreclosure by SwedBank, a Nordic-Baltic banking group that was the Harbor View’s main lender.

“Long story short, we almost lost the hotel to Swedbank, in which case we would be looking at the Holiday Inn of Edgartown right now,” said Sean Murphy, an Edgartown attorney representing Chiu. “For the first time in 10 years, we’ve got somebody who is ready to pull the trigger.”

The reason for the increase in rooms, according to Murphy, is that Chiu purchased the hotel expecting to get a return on his investment. The additional rooms will add to the overall revenue stream of the hotel.

Murphy requested that in addition to the approval, there not be a formal hearing by the commission, because the proposal is already required to go before the zoning board of appeals of Edgartown for a formal hearing.

The valet parking plan, according to Murphy, will help with the expected increase in vehicular traffic during functions.

“And that’s not just to satisfy the commission or the zoning board; they want their customers to be happy,” said Murphy. “The parking ratio [of spaces to rooms] will actually exceed what’s there presently.”

Rod Janè, project manager for Upland Capital, said the Lighthouse Grill and Henry’s bar (both located in the hotel) will also see significant changes. The seating capacity of the combined two will decrease, but Janè said he thinks the quality of the dining experience will improve.

“If you go into the restaurant now, it’s pretty much a banquet setup with rows of round tables. There is going to be a lot more diversity of seating, some booths, some high-tops, lots of nooks and crannies. So there is going to be less seating capacity, but we think a nicer restaurant,” said Janè.

Pending approval by the zoning board, the restaurant and bar will be renovated in conjunction with the development of the Mayhew building and the addition of rooms and parking to the main hotel.

In other business, modifications were approved regarding the development of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, currently being renovated in Vineyard Haven. Modifications include revised grading and configuration of an entry driveway, revised grading and configuration of the main parking lot, removal of drainage swales, and the addition of a cedar fence along the northwestern property lines.

The main concern for neighboring properties is the amount of vehicular traffic and ambient noise levels caused by parties and construction. The addition of a fence and buffer plantings along the property line will minimize the impact on the surrounding properties.

According to a letter to the commission, in the hopes of protecting the “irreplaceable ancient Wampanoag cultural deposits” located adjacent to the museum, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) proposed grade changes to the driveway, as well as the relocation of drainage swales to cleared areas.

As part of an ongoing discussion of a five-lot project on Division Road, the commission also deliberated possible conditions, benefits, and detriments of a five-foot-wide trail easement on Division Road in Edgartown, along the property line defined by Old Meshacket Road.

This trail would be considered a dormant easement, meaning it would not be developed, maintained, and used until other property owners surrounding the easement also agree to allow the space for public use.

“This trail needs to go somewhere, other than just up and down the side of the subdivision,” Douglas Sederholm, a West Tisbury representative to the commission, said.

Updated to correct the ownership sequence. – Ed.