New, yet familiar sight on Main Street

Yellow House returns to former glory in Edgartown.

Construction at the Yellow House is compete. — Rich Saltzberg

After years of neglect, a lengthy legal process, and a public bid process, the Yellow House on Main Street has been renovated and is open for business.

The project of reviving the historic, downtown Edgartown building was the result of a unique public-private partnership. The prime piece of real estate, which abuts town hall, sat in disrepair for years until voters approved taking the building by eminent domain at the April 2017 town meeting and town election. It was previously owned by the Hall family.

Town voters authorized the board of selectmen to use $1.5 million in community preservation funds and $1.5 million in town taxes to take the building.

In June 2017, Edgartown selectmen signed off on final approval of taking the building. The town then began the long process of putting renovation of the building out to bid. After issues arose during the first round of bidding, Christopher Celeste, operating as Summer & Main LLC of Edgartown, put in a bid and secured a 30-year lease with the town to renovate and operate the building. The lease secures $100,000 payment over the 30-year lease to the town and a commitment that the renovation would be completed and suitable as a retail space.

Celeste is no stranger to Edgartown — he also owns and operates Rosewater Market & Takeaway and Dairy Queen. 

Speaking to The Times by phone, Celeste said he’s been interested in the property since he and his daughter, Julia Celeste-Tarka, started Rosewater.

“The corner of Summer and Main is the entrance to the town. For almost 20 years people walked by and looked at a quiet ghost,” Celeste said. “I keep saying the previous owner had it for 18 years and did nothing. We’ve had it for 18 months and look at what we’ve accomplished.”

Renovating the building hasn’t come without its difficulties. Celeste said he and others involved in the project have faced legal challenges from Ben Hall Jr., an attorney who is a member of the Hall family.

“I just frankly decided I wasn’t going to let someone’s litigious streak prevent us from doing the right thing,” Celeste said. “People kept putting their neck out to do the right thing, this is a great example — if people are willing to put their self interest aside — what can be done.”

Hall was not immediately available for comment at his office or by email.

In a Letter to the Editor, Celeste thanked the many people involved in the unique project. 

“After almost two decades of neglect and legal wrangling the lights are finally on again in the Yellow House at the corner of Summer and Main in downtown Edgartown. And despite the private thanks I’ve received from many folks, the truth is this transformative project was only possible because of an expansive effort that included dozens and dozens of public and private collaborators,” Celeste wrote.

He thanked his project partners Gerret Conover and Dudley Cannada along with several contractors, builders, painters, tradesfolk, and town boards and officials who all worked together to pull the project off.

“Together, all of us, took a downtown property that once left people asking ‘Why can’t anything be done about that eyesore’ and transformed it into one that once again bustles with business and beauty,” Celeste wrote.

The entire project, which encompasses the Yellow House and a smaller structure, created three retail spaces, apartments, and an office space. The smaller structure now houses Rosebud, a children’s retail store, and the street level of the Yellow House is home to Lululemon, which will operate year-round.

The project was designed to give the town a lot of flexibility into the future. The Yellow House retail space is able to be split into two. The one bedroom, two bedroom, and studio apartments, all with full baths, could become office space for the town. A basement on the property offers laundry and storage space.

The apartments were also created to offer housing for year-rounders working downtown. Currently Lululemon is renting out one apartment to an employee and Celeste said he’s finalizing paperwork to have people move into the other apartments this weekend.

Shepherding the project through a pandemic also posed challenges. Originally, construction was on track to be finished on May 15, but after the Island’s construction ban put a hold on work the final date was moved to this month.

Celeste kept his next project underwraps, but did say he is working on a potential opportunity involved with affordable rental housing. Right now he’s focused on his other businesses

“I’m nursing businesses through this strange pandemic period,” he said. “You want to be open and be safe…for employees and the public.”

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. The building looks like it belongs in a shopping complex like Mashpee Commons. It’s definitely not ugly but doesn’t look like quintessential Edgartown Main Street either.

    • Yes Mashpee Commons did it’s best to emulate Edgartown’s Main Street.
      And now it is going the other way.
      In twenty years a hysterical commission will trying to save it for it’s historical significance.
      They will not be able to change a thing.

  2. A HUGE Thank You! to Christopher Celeste, Gerret Conover, Dudley Cannada and the Town leaders for turning a dilapidated eyesore into a beautiful mixed use building at the entryway to Main Street. Their perseverance, commitment and attention to detail is very much appreciated, and is a great example of how the public and private sectors can work together to the betterment of the community.

    • @OBSeaSide, I wish Tisbury would take the Bowl and Board building by eminent domain and clean that whole area up like Edgartown succeeded in doing. What a nice addition to Main Street in Edgartown . Now for Vineyard Haven to do the same.

  3. Let’s point our that although some in Edgartown and on MV have a weird kind of friendliness toward the Halls, evidenced at town meetings and so forth, what we have seen and what their legacy is (yes, time is passing and history is marching on and we can begin to write their legacy) is dilapidated buildings they refused to renovate over the years and property likewise that goes unused and abused. This is the Hall legacy as it unfolds into Vineyard history. That and taking up court time and taxpayer dollars with frivolous lawsuits that they seem to file in kneejerk reaction to anything that has to do with their property or their interests. They are essentially the Trumps of Martha’s Vineyard, refusing to give up until the bitter end, never taking care of what they own, nickel and diming, and suing in court until they are beaten once and for all. A POTUS family. I guess it’s just disturbing to me as an American taxpayer. They are taking advantage of the legal loopholes of the country to fulfill their egoistic concerns, that said, legacy becomes further cemented. Oh, well. Every family does things their own way. But the American way is not the Hall way and they have wasted my tax dollars. Good for the new owners. I read about how they already own Dairy Queen and Rosewater – I don’t think it’s healthy to own too much as monopolies tend end up poorly for the consumer, it’s not like the prices will get lower, they will just get higher, but you know, I still wish them luck and congratulate them on wresting this opportunity away from the darkness and fixing it up to make it better for Edgartown.

    • How is owning three businesses that offer three different products/services a monopoly?
      Now, if you had brought up a certain Edgartown businessman and his family that own multiple food service businesses across the street from each other….

  4. Thank you for this beautiful renovation! What a huge difference. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I wish you all the best. An added bonus it has three much needed rental spaces.

  5. I watched as the building was completely gutted inside and out. They did not “save” it, they replaced it. Historical detail completely gone. Town really failed here.

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