“Now the work begins,” said a smiling Ray D’Abate after the City Council unanimously gave first passage to a zone change Monday night, allowing construction of a 6-story, 127-room hotel in Apponaug.
In fact, a lot of work has already gone into the hotel at the corner of Station Street and West Shore Road in Apponaug. With views of Apponaug Cove, the hotel has been in the planning stages for the past five years. D’Abate and Joseph and Sallie Pisaturo are principals in Apponaug Waterfront Development LLC, and have held two community informational meetings, met with the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and gained the recommended approval of the Planning Board. They also picked up the endorsements of the Apponaug Area Improvement Association (AAIA) and the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
“The plan is considerably improved,” said K. Joseph Shekarchi, attorney representing the developers. Shekarchi brought along traffic engineers who were prepared to comment if needed. They weren’t.
As a result of the intensive review and questions raised, the initial scope of the project, which was designed for 10 stories and 220 rooms, was downsized. Incorporated into the design are a peaked roofline and façade treatments complimentary to the buildings of Apponaug Village. Also, an acre of the 4-acre site is being preserved as open space and, according to D’Abate, the hotel won’t exceed the tree line as viewed from residential Dory Road.
Council approval of a rezoning from light industrial to general business is a major step for the project, but hardly the last hurdle.
D’Abate said they would now finalize its CRMC application and continue work with the state Department of Transportation over access and egress to the site. He said CRMC has defined the coastal buffer, which has been met, but the project still requires formal approval. As for the traffic, D’Abate said, with the development of the Apponaug circulator that will include a roundabout west of the West Shore Road railroad underpass, the sight line to the hotel entrance and egress will be 500 feet from either direction. This appears to address concerns that hotel traffic would cause accidents.
D’Abate hopes permitting will be completed this year for construction to start in 2015. Second and final passage of the zone change will come before the council next month.
Dory Road resident Donald Mckenzie, one of two public members to raise concerns over the project, questioned traffic as well as the viability of another hotel.
But the hospitality market and the upward trend being seen in the state buoyed D’Abate. He said, after the vote, that hotel occupancy in the state is running in the high 60 percent and that in Warwick it’s in the mid-70s. He said local hotels are seeing a return of corporate business and he ventured that the hotel will be so unique that it will stand out for corporate and vacation travelers.
“We’re going to be creating a personality,” he said.
He described the hotel as offering a flavoring of New England’s rich historical past while incorporating an experience of today and projecting the opportunities of the future.
The hotel will fly the Wyndham flag. It is projected to cost $22 million. D’Abate said he is continuing to work out financing.
The plan brought the praise of council members and the village association.
Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Ward 3) pointed to the more than 100 construction and full-time jobs to be created. Charles Donovan Jr. (D-Ward 7) was pleased by the peer review of the traffic engineering study and the developers’ receptiveness to city concerns.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s well thought out and planned,” said Ed Ladouceur (D-Ward 5).
“I think it is the best thing for Apponaug,” said AAIA president Derek Anderson, “they’ve done everything; they’ve crossed the ‘Ts’ and dotted the “Is.’”