Facing Pushback, Blue Flag Presses Pause On Plans For Historic Woodbox

Facing pushback from neighbors over its plans to renovate and expand the historic Woodbox inn on Fair Street, Blue Flag Partners is pulling its permit application – for now – giving it time to seek additional meetings with abutters to air concerns, and potentially revise their vision for the property.

Blue Flag Partners’ Terry Sanford told the Current his firm had “opted to continue the Planning Board hearing until next month” following a meeting with attorney Arthur Reade, who is representing a group of neighbors that has expressed concerns about noise, congestion and changes to the Woodbox. Sanford and another Blue Flag Partners principal, Brad Guidi, said the level of pushback from abutting property owners had taken them by surprise, but they are prepared to hear their concerns, and be both good neighbors and stewards of one of the oldest structures on Nantucket. 

“As we were leading into the Planning Board meeting, we got a deluge of e-mails and letters submitted from an expanded group of neighbors beyond the people we were talking to already,” Sanford said. “We did a call with Arthur (Reade), and the issues and concerns were conflicting and unclear. They were conjecture. It was always our intent to do a fine dining restaurant and the neighbors thought it was going to be a raucous bar.”

The original plans submitted to the Historic District Commission have already been completely revised to address many of the concerns, Guidi said, but it was clear that further dialogue with neighbors would be helpful before heading to the Planning Board. 

“What was surprising was not the level of interest – we were attune to the fact that this was a building a lot of people have history with and emotion tied to – we were surprised by the narratives put out by individuals who weren’t studying the plan, hadn’t reached out to us and were putting out a story that was disparate from what was happening,” Guidi said. “We were definitely surprised by the approach and the vitriol at us as individuals and our company.”

In addition to keeping the front facade of the Woodbox essentially unchanged, Blue Flag Partners revised its plans to ensure that the eclectic rooflines at the rear of the building remain intact, Sanford and Guidi said. 

They emphasized that even though some have characterized the project as a major expansion of the Woodbox, their plans for the restaurant leave the number of seats – 45 total – unchanged, and the number of lodging rooms would actually be decreased. 

“In the beginning when we were talking to neighbors, we had positive feedback,” Guidi said. “Then all the sudden these letters started coming in and it became a hot button. Our goals is to do something upscale, preserve those those buildings, get a meeting with the neighbors to outline our vision and allow them to be heard.”

The Woodbox is one of the oldest and most historic structures on Nantucket, dating back to 1709 – making it just slightly younger than the Oldest House. But the building had fallen into disrepair in recent years, and in 2019 it was condemned by the Health Department as unfit for human habitation. 

In April, Blue Flag Partners purchased the Woodbox property at 27-29 Fair Street as part of a $13.3 million deal to acquire the Summer House’s downtown lodging properties.

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