Facing Pushback, Blue Flag Scales Back Plans For Woodbox

Facing a torrent of concerns from neighbors, Blue Flag Partners pressed the pause button last November on its plans to renovate and expand the historic Woodbox inn on Fair Street, Today, Blue Flag representatives will be back before the Planning Board with a revised proposal that drops the original plan for outdoor dining and music, and also eliminates an indoor bar  – all of which were hot-button issues for abutters of the property.

The real estate development and investment firm led by Terry Sanford submitted a new three-page restaurant and guest house management plan to the Planning Board that will be considered during today’s hearing as part of its special permit application. 

The plan specifies that the restaurant will include 45 interior seats with no outdoor area, and that alcoholic beverages will be limited to table service only. It would be permitted to be open daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the general public. 

Following their decision to pull their original plans and press pause on the project back in November, Sanford and Blue Flag’s Brad Guidi said they intended to seek additional dialogue with neighbors of the property who had raised concerns regarding noise, congestion and other changes to the Woodbox. 

But several neighbors who have reviewed the revised management plan have already written to the Planning Board with continued objections. Michael and Jenny Baldock, the owners of 7 School Street, along with Carolyn and William Seay, of 36 Fair Street, among others, said Blue Flag intends to change the name of the Woodbox to “Fair Street Hotel” (although that name does not yet appear in the filing) and they remain concerned with the proposal. 

“The name Blue Flag proposes to use for the properties, ‘The Fair Street Hotel,’ says it all,” the Baldocks wrote to the Planning Board. “It’s no longer a bed and breakfast with relatively limited food service. They want to run a full scale, busy hotel with 18 hours of public restaurant operation and six daily commercial drop offs and pick ups in one of the most quiet, residential, parking-challenged neighborhoods in the Historic District. Hillers and Fair are not commercial Centre Street or Broad Street or Easton Street. The scale of Blue Flag’s proposal is outsized to the neighborhood.”

In addition to axing outdoor dining and music, the plan sets a maximum limit of 20 employees on a peak shift for the restaurant and guest house, and designates an on-site manager who is responsible for the operations and will be available 24/7 by cell phone to direct abutters, police, and town departments to address any issues. 

In a nod to the neighbors’ concern regarding parking and additional vehicles in the area, Blue Flag said it will discourage all of its guests from bringing vehicles to the island through its website, in printed materials, and during the reservation process. 

Blue Flag’s plans for the exterior of the historic structure show the front facade of 29 Fair Street and the side of the building along the narrow Hillers Lane would remain essentially the same, while a large addition off the rear of the building is being proposed. Back portions of the restaurant and guest house at 29 Fair Street would be demolished and rebuilt, while the interior courtyard would be enclosed.

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. Preservation advocates are closely watching the permitting process for the proposed expansion and renovation.

All told, the inn would go from having one six-bedroom dwelling and 16 units totaling 24 bedrooms, to 18 total units with 19 bedrooms.

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.

Today’s hearing begins at 4 p.m. today. Click here to participate via Zoom or watch live on YouTube at this link.

More from Jason Graziadei

Chamber Goes To Bat For Large Scale Island Events

In the wake of the island’s public safety heads decrying the island’s...
Read More