An architect's rendering depicts The Cabanas, a 21-room hotel planned by the Bellone family for 132 and 134 Atlantic Ave. The new hotel would replace Maria's Seaside Cafe, which was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and an adjacent building the family uses for summer rentals. The restaurant will be incorporated into the new hotel, which would also include 4 two-bedroom residences. The family plans to continue operating its Breezeway Resort on Winnapaug Road. (Courtesy of LDL Studio Inc.)
January 29, 2014 09:00AM
By DALE P. FAULKNER
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — The Bellone family’s plan to rebuild its Atlantic Avenue restaurant as a new hotel, restaurant and bar has passed one of its first official hurdles.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the family’s pre-application and concept plan during a special meeting Tuesday. The board also granted the owners a unanimous advisory opinion in favor of their request for a special use permit, which will be required from the Zoning Board of Review. And it agreed to combine its preliminary and master plan review when the family returns to the board.
The structure would be called The Cabanas, a 34,483-square-foot hotel at 132 and 134 Atlantic Ave., the current site of the family’s Maria’s Seaside Cafe and an associated building that houses part of the restaurant and five hotel suites. The cafe sustained substantial damage in Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and has not reopened.
Gary LaPore, an architect with LDL Studio in Providence, said the Bellone’s provided clear direction for the project.
“They asked us not to provide a rectangle box but to do something that has aesthetic value throughout the project, so you will note the introduction of railings, wood trim, cedar siding and singles, something that is really inviting to people who would visit the hotel,” LaPore said.
The building is also designed to attract guests looking for weeklong stays or longer, and incorporates elements intended to extend its use into the “shoulder season” — during the fall and spring.
The building will sit on steel and concrete pilings to lift it out of the way of potential flooding and will use a wooden frame that LePore said will be better able, than other materials, to withstand heavy winds.
The design of the project was driven by the need to meet limitations of the site’s septic system capacity and the town’s parking requirements, said Sergio Cherenzia, a project engineer with Cherenzia Associates.
The proposed 21-room hotel, with four two-bedroom residences, 40-seat restaurant and 18-seat bar, will stay within state effluent limits for the site and allows for the use of a denitrification septic system, Cherenzia said.
The project is considered a “mixed use” development under the town’s zoning regulations. As such 10 percent of the total property will be “public space” in the form of a plaza area in the front, an herb garden in the rear area of the property, and landscaping on the Montauk Avenue side of the property, Cherenzia said.
The building will be located more than 200 feet away from the nearest coastal feature and therefore does not require approval from the state Coastal Resources Management Council, Cherenzia said.
Thomas Liguori, the lawyer representing the Bellones, said the current plans resulted from several meetings over a period of months with himself, town staff members and lawyers, project engineers, and the Bellones.
“This application represents the most extensive interactive process of town staff in any project that I can attest to in the last 37 years that I’ve been practicing in the community,” Liguori said.
With the input of Town Planner Marilyn Shellman and others, Liguori said the project design, which includes installation of a sidewalk in front of the hotel, will “change the face of that section of Misquamicut, with the idea being it sets the tone for how that whole area’s subsequent development and subsequent improvements might be carried on to create that kind of a new, inviting, walkable Misquamicut,” Liguori said.
The property is owned by Nicollo and Maria Bellone and their son, John. Nicollo Bellone emigrated to the United States in 1959 and purchased the Breezeway Resort hotel on Winnapaug Road in 1970. The family then bought the former Dino’s Seafood House in 1994 and launched Maria’s Seaside Cafe, which they expanded in 2000 after purchasing the adjoining Sisco’s Market. The family hopes to open the Cabanas in the summer of 2015.
“In one sense it’s the epitome of the American Dream,” Liguori said.
The project must still receive approval from the zoning board, an advisory opinion from the Architectural Review Board, and preliminary and master plan approval from the Planning Board.
Cherenzia Associates is The Westerly Sun’s landlord.