Southport RR depot cafe plan back on track?
The months-old plan for the restaurant, which sparked neighborhood opposition last year, will again be on the agenda for the Parking Authority's meeting next week. James Walsh, the lawyer representing the Cafe Society applicant, in June requested an extension from the panel in order to respond to a letter from the state Department of Transportation. The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30 in Sullivan-Independence Hall.
According to the May 17 letter from Eugene Colonese, rail administrator for the DOT, the department could not approve the application from Cafe Society to occupy the renovated and rebuilt westbound building.
While the proposal received "considerable" letters of support, Colonese said in the letter to Parking Authority Chairwoman Mary Kay Frost, it did not have the endorsement of local preservation groups and neighbors.
During a Parking Authority meeting late last year on the proposal, one neighbor stated fears that the restaurant would become a "biker bar."
"Numerous respected historic groups have submitted letters to the department respectfully requesting that the application be denied," Colonese wrote.
The Parking Authority leases the structure from the state and therefore DOT approval of any sublease is required.
During an on-site meeting last year, Colonese said, the department was clear "that the integrity of the building and the associated restoration effort could not be overshadowed with any future occupancy" and that more detailed, updated plans illustrating the actual impact by the Cafe Society plan to the building were never received.
Colonese also said the proposed sublease agreement contained no specific stipulation ensuring the building would be restored to its original condition should the restaurant close, nor does it indicate any requirement for fire insurance coverage.
The state spent $2.6 million rebuilding the depot to replicate the historic depot after it was destroyed by a fire in 2008.
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