2017-01-05 / Front Page

Four-Story Hotel Proposed at KJ’s

Long-discussed improvements to Easton’s Point area are not on radar, say town officials.
By Olga Enger


The existing plans to convert KJ's Restaurant to a four-story hotel will require a special-use permit and six variances from the zoning ordinance. The owners hope to increase the size and number of spaces of the parking lot, extending it closer to the property line than typically permitted. Their application also seeks to extend the building construction up to the property line, bypassing a requirement of a 20-foot landscaped buffer on one side. The existing plans to convert KJ's Restaurant to a four-story hotel will require a special-use permit and six variances from the zoning ordinance. The owners hope to increase the size and number of spaces of the parking lot, extending it closer to the property line than typically permitted. Their application also seeks to extend the building construction up to the property line, bypassing a requirement of a 20-foot landscaped buffer on one side. The owners of KJ’s Restaurant, located in the heart of the rapidly developing Easton’s Point district in Middletown, hope to replace their existing business with a boutique hotel.

The owners, John Gullison and Bonnie Zimble, have submitted plans to the town to construct a four-story, 18-room hotel and restaurant at 59 Aquidneck Ave., their current location. The application is scheduled to appear before the Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday, Jan. 10, which will refer the proposal to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion, as required for major commercial development.

“I applaud KJ’s. I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said Town Council President Robert Sylvia. “They are making themselves more marketable. This is our southerly entrance to Newport. It’s a prime location today and it’s certainly going to be a prime location down the road.”

The project timeline and other construction details are still unknown, according to Jeremiah Lynch, the attorney representing the project. “It all depends on how long it takes to get through zoning,” he said.

The Easton’s Point district has experienced a recent surge of development.

Last year, the brothers Peter and Harry Kyriakides sold their beachfront restaurant Atlantic Beach Club for $12 million to Longwood Venues of Boston. The new owners converted the building into a luxury wedding venue, Newport Beach House, which has been called a “local economic engine” by officials.

“People come from out of town to attend a high-end event. They aren’t coming for just a day. They are looking for places to stay and places to eat. They want to go sightseeing, go to package stores, get out in the community,” Sylvia said.

The Newport Beach House is not the only new wedding venue to the area.

Once the Kyriakides brothers sold the Atlantic Beach Club, they demolished their nearby economy hotel, Seaview Inn, located at 240 Aquidneck Ave., to build a mid-range hotel, restaurant and event venue. Construction is still underway at what is now called the Atlantic Beach Resort, although they hosted a handful of weddings in the fall.

Around the same time last year, the Sea Breeze Inn broke ground on their new boutique hotel, designed by the architectural firm Herk Works – the same firm hired by the owners of nearby KJ’s.

The plans at KJ’s feature rooms between 313 to 593 square feet, many with outdoor decks. Over 2,000 square feet will be dedicated to a restaurant and kitchen, and a small gym is also envisioned for the property.

“They are in the very first phase of the project. I haven’t seen their formal plans yet,” said Town Planner Ronald Wolanski. Once the Planning Board has reviewed the plans, zoning will conduct a public hearing before a decision is rendered on the special use permit and variances, said Wolanski.

“Because it is a hotel in a limited business zone, a special use permit is required,” said Lynch. At this early phase, the attorney has not heard concerns from neighbors. There are 30 abutters named on the application.

The owners have applied for six zoning variances, including a request to enlarge the parking area closer to the property line than permitted by the zoning ordinance. They also hope to gain relief from the buffer requirements, extending construction up to the property line on the west side and five feet from the line on the east side. Another requested variance seeks relief from a required 20-foot landscaped buffer for the loading area. Finally, the town code dictates that an 18-room hotel sit on at least 18,000 square feet of land, but the lot is slightly smaller at 17,533 square feet.

Town officials have long talked about revitalizing the Easton’s Point district.

In 2007, after surveying businesses, residents and conducting public workshops, consultants published the “Atlantic Beach District Master Plan,” which detailed recommendations for the area, including landscaping, upgrades to sidewalks, and lighting.

Although those ideas have been mentioned enthusiastically over the years, projects have failed to gain traction. Town Administrator Shawn Brown confirmed that looking ahead into 2017, there are no plans to discuss town-financed improvements to the area.

“Will it happen in 2017? In all probability, it will not,” said Sylvia. “But we have a plan, we have a vision.

Just like our comp plan, that is our vision for the area. It certainly is my vision.”

Nevertheless, the recent surge of redevelopment could reignite the energy behind the town’s longterm goals for the area, said Sylvia.

Last year, to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at lower Aquidneck Avenue, the Town Council approved the installation of a landscaped roundabout at the intersection of Aquidneck Avenue and Valley Road. At that same meeting, council approved removing the slip lane from the intersection in front of the Newport Beach House and replacing it with a bump-out for pedestrians.

The town has not received a timeline of these projects, which are under the jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, said Brown.

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