Bakery plan for Old Variety Store advances

The new Oak Bluffs building is planned to be just over 26 feet tall. 

The design for the bakery planned to be built where the Old Variety Store once stood.

A new bakery may be coming to town in Oak Bluffs. 

Joseph Moujabber, who owns the now demolished Old Variety Store, has plans to convert 10 Oak Bluffs Ave. into a two-story mixed-use building. The first floor is planned to be a bakery, and the second floor a one-bedroom apartment. 

The Oak Bluffs planning board unanimously approved a special permit for the project on Thursday. 

The property was purchased by Moujabber in 2017 for $700,000. The historic building stood at the site for more than 150 years as various businesses, before it was demolished in December. A small crowd gathered on the corner of Oak Bluffs Avenue and Kennebec Avenue the morning the building was taken down. 

During the board’s public hearing on Thursday, George Sourati and Bryan Collins of Sourati Engineering Group gave presentations about the project. 

The project is on a 1,927-square-foot triangular lot. Sourati said the building was vacant for around 15 or 20 years before being demolished. Unlike the old building, which encroached particularly into Kennebec Avenue, the new structure will not intrude beyond the property. The building will have a 1,244-square-foot commercial space on the first floor, with a 589-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment on the second floor, to be used by Moujabber or a manager. A small crawl space is also planned below the first floor. The planned commercial space is a reduction of 90 square feet from the original building’s commercial space of 1,334 square feet. 

“Currently, the plan is for Joe to have a bakery on the first floor,” Sourati said. “That use may change, obviously. If it’s a commercial building, it could change into something else in the future.”

The project received approval from the Oak Bluffs wastewater department, conservation commission, zoning board of appeals, and the Cottage City historic district commission. “They were very pleased with the new architecture of the new structure,” Sourati said about the historic district commission. 

A part of the design consists of rebuilding the gazebo-style structure of the old building and preserving the brick sidewalk, to fit with the overall characteristic of the area. There will also be an entrance accommodating those with disabilities. The new building is planned to be just over 26 feet tall. 

“This will be one of the nicer buildings in the area,” Sourati said. 

The project is expected to take six months to complete. Project contractor Brian Lane said it would be impossible to finish by Memorial Day weekend.

Collins gave an overview of the project’s compliance with Oak Bluffs zoning bylaws. Waivers were requested for two bylaws. One was waiving the requirement for the surface water drainage system to be designed for 100-year storm conditions. The property design would allow water to go into an onsite drainage system, and some would flow into the town’s drainage system. 

The other is waiving the requirement to provide parking spaces, because of the small lot size. Planning board member Mark Crossland said this lot would need to provide more than eight parking spaces, and an inability to do so would be a $779 fee paid to the town. He also said this fee was enforced on other downtown Oak Bluffs businesses that cannot provide parking. 

After the presentation, only a few people spoke during the public comment period among the total 15 people who attended the Zoom meeting. No written comments or questions were submitted.

Richard Toole supported the project. “We’ve been looking at this tumbled-down piece of junk for quite a few years now … this looks like a well-designed building, and the housing upstairs is desperately needed,” he said. 

Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. said he spoke with the applicant about the parking and drainage issues. He thinks the drainage system was addressed, and that there were adequate loading zones nearby on Kennebec Avenue, which also serves the restaurants in the area. 

Gretchen Mayher expressed concern over the apartment, which she felt would obstruct the view when driving into Oak Bluffs from the ferry in the summer. Mayher also said Moujabber shouldn’t be able to build an apartment for himself. “With all due respect, he doesn’t need to build himself an apartment to live in. That would, in my mind, be very, very inappropriate,” she said. 

Other than some clarifying questions and comments, the board members were in favor of the project. After some deliberation, the board unanimously voted to grant the special permit with the stormwater drainage requirement waiver. However, the board unanimously denied the parking waiver request. 

Board chair Ewell Hopkins said there will be a 20-day appeal period.