The new owners of the historic Kennebec Avenue building that houses the Red Cat Kitchen are proposing to demolish the existing building and replace it with a brand-new three-story structure.
The proposed plans, which the planning board has referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), will keep the Red Cat Kitchen on the first floor, have four single-bedroom, market-rate apartments on the two floors above, and add a basement for storage.
Thomas G. Ward and Carol L. Hulak sold the historic Kennebec Avenue building to Chilmark resident and Los Angeles record producer Gary Jones, operating as GJ & BP Holdings LLC, for $690,000 in November. Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish was a partner in the transaction.
The proposed building was designed by architect Chuck Sullivan, of Sullivan and Associates, after meeting with Jones, Packish, and Red Cat owners Ben DeForest and Sarah Omer.
The new building is being dubbed the Menotomy, which comes from Menotomy Realty Trust, the former ownership. The new design has a porch similar to the current building, but adds a new turret in the front of the building.
The Carpenter Gothic/Campground style building was built in 1858, and is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS). The building was originally owned by William H. Davis, and was home to a paint shop. The home was part of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. development, a secular alternative to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association.
Speaking to The Times by phone Monday, Packish said renovation was considered, but structurally, the building is deficient. “It has to be a demolition. None of the components will come close to meeting code,” he said.
The design adds two ADA-compliant bathrooms, and makes the building ADA-accessible per state law.
While the building is not in the historic district, it does abut it. With that in mind, Packish said, the new building was designed with historic features to fit in with the character of the town.
“When you’re looking up at Kennebec, how do we create a feeling that’s a lot more than a box?” Packish said. “It felt like it’s the right thing to do, and we wanted to design a building to set the bar for buildings in the future in the downtown.”
Currently, the building is a 55-seat restaurant with three bedrooms on the second floor. The proposed project will remove three restaurant seats and add another bedroom, which, according to Packish, will be reducing wastewater flow by 35 gallons per day.
The project is headed to the MVC as a development of regional impact (DRI). Since the project is in the early stages, plans are not definite, but Packish said the project will likely be making a monetary contribution to meet the MVC’s affordable housing contribution, and because the apartments will be market-rate.
“We fully plan to participate in that,” Packish said. “It will likely be a monetary donation route … at this early stage we’re keeping options open.”
A total cost for demolition and construction has not been determined, but will be once the project has full and complete construction drawings, Packish said.
The new building is also giving DeForest and Omer the option for Red Cat to be open year-round. Currently, the restaurant operates seasonally, from April to December.
“It will be up to them, but we will be providing them an opportunity to expand their season,” Packish said.
While the project calls for a complete demolition, Packish plans to salvage parts of the existing building, such as some interior woodwork and the iconic red front doors. “Keep the vibration of the past as we bring it forward to 2020,” he said.
Red Cat will be open for business in 2020. Packish said construction will hopefully begin Oct. 15 and finish May 15, 2021.
Packish added that a lot of feedback was taken during the planning stages, and the proposed design was the first Sullivan came up with — one the owners of the building and the restaurant were thrilled with.
“He hit it right out of the park right on the first swing; we couldn’t be happier with what [Sullivan] provided,” Packish said.