Commission objects to use of vinyl siding on new building

A city of Dover committee got its first look last week at plans to redevelop the site of the historic Bayard Hotel at the corner of Loockerman Street and Governors Avenue.

The Historic District Commission reviewed preliminary architectural drawings for the Bayard Plaza, a five-story, mixed-use building with retail storefronts on the first floor and 48 apartments above.

The plaza would rise on the site of the old hotel after it’s torn down. Earlier this year, the commission ruled that the long-vacant building had fallen into such disrepair that, despite its historic status, it should be condemned. The Bayard Hotel dates back to at least the mid-1800s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Developer Henry Mast said he would like to break ground on Bayard Plaza some time in February or March, which means he’d have to demolish the existing buildings by the end of the year.

However, the commission wants Mast to obtain his construction permits at the same time he obtains his demolition permits, in an effort to prevent the lot from sitting vacant for a long period of time.

Mast seemed amenable to that plan, so long as the commission and the other city committees who get a say in the matter don’t drag their feet.

The Historic District Commission is responsible for signing off on the architectural plans before they go to the city Planning Commission for final approval, but the watchdogs of Dover’s historic downtown weren’t entirely satisfied with Mast’s plans for his new building.

At issue were proposals to use vinyl siding to cover portions of the Bayard Plaza’s exterior — a material seen by historical preservationists as not in keeping with the traditional architectural design elements.

City planning staff recommended using more brick on parts of the façade and adding architectural details in other areas.

Architect Bill Byler said he’s not opposed to the staff suggestions, but he doesn’t think he can forego the use of vinyl siding entirely.

“We want to use vinyl siding,” he said. “But there’s some really good suggestions here in these comments that we’re in agreement with.”

The commission also received several letters from concerned citizens who want the developer to nix the vinyl siding.

Mast said he would revise his plans to incorporate additional architectural flourishes that will downplay the vinyl, but he can’t make the jump to more expensive siding materials all around.

“It’s really a cost issue,” he said. “In today’s world it’s really hard to even get something like this financed.”

The commission agreed to have a special meeting in advance of the November Planning Commission meeting to consider Mast’s revised plans and, hopefully, keep his demolition and construction timetable on track.