Will one of Flanders’ most historic — yet blighted — buildings be torn down? Or will it be made into an $8 million hotel, pool and restaurant facility that could host weddings and house “less than 100” people?
That’s the quandary facing The Brewster House.
The Flanders Road structure has been an eyesore for close to three decades after a fire in 1987 ripped through it and left a hold in the roof. And early last month, its owners were given notice that the town was going to tear the building down because it was so unsafe.
That’s when its owners presented plans to the public that stated it not only intends to restore the building to safety — but much more.
Owners Jamie and Keri Minnick, who live in Flanders, have created a plan which incorporates suggestions they’ve received from the public, and are hoping to get its support to redevelop the property. They presented their project for the property, named the Brewster House Hotel, last week at a joint meeting of various civic associations in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas.
Mr. Minnick said he’d been driving past the building for the past five years before deciding to buy it in 2014.
“It’s pretty much a dump,” he said. “I wanted to see it fixed up.”
But first, they have to get past the Southampton Town Board, which has scheduled a May 10 public hearing on a proposal to potentially tear the building down if its not made safe by then.
A group called Restoration Equity Group LLC, led by the Minnicks and other investors who they declined to identify, bought the property in 2014 for $150,000.
They now have architectural renderings of what they hope to make the building look like, along with an online petition asking the Southampton Town not to demolish the building on a website they’ve established at restorationequitygroup.com.
The big blue building just north of the Flanders Memorial Park is believed to have been built around 1880 and parts of it are believed to go back as far as the 1700s. It has been falling apart after damage caused by a fire in the 1987 was never repaired. Ms. Minnick says vandals have also damaged the building over the years.
Once a 28-room boarding house, it’s been called the Brewster House, the Grove House and the Hallock-Fanning House, among other names. It was also a police station and a hunting club at various times.
“A decent portion of the structure can be saved,” Mr. Minnick said.
The front part of building, which can be seen from Flanders Road, is the newer portion, while the back section is less structurally sound,and is believed to have been built on top of an older building foundation that goes back to the 1700s.
Assuming the Southampton Town Board doesn’t require the building to be demolished, the Minnicks also plan to build a sewage treatment plant on site.
“You will need a whole series of things,” said Southampton Councilman John Bouvier, who attended the meeting last Wednesday. “You will need a (draft environmental impact study), you’ll need to comply with the (State Environmental Quality Review Act) and you’ll need a zoning change,” he said. “It’s my experience that, from beginning to end, this could take several years.”
The Minnicks say it’s important that they can show the Town Board there’s community support behind their plans.
Susan Tocci of Flanders said she her view of the project has changed since a presentation Ms. Minnick made before the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association in March.
“The last time, I didn’t know if you were pulling our leg or not, but this presentation has changed my whole thought in this,” she said. “If you can pull this off, I’ll stand behind you. I’ll be there to support you.”
“We want to know that something is going to move forward in the immediate future,” former FRNCA president Vince Taldone said.
Janice Young of Flanders, who is a member of the town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, cautioned that the immediate goal is to get past the Town Board’s May 10 hearing.
“They are saying its a safety concern,” she said. “You will have to prove to them that its not. The landmarks commission cannot get behind you if it’s a safety issue.”
Mr. Minnick said they plan to bring a stamp from a professional engineer saying that the building can be restored.
Ironically, it was a list compiled by local civic leaders of 15 blighted structures in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas that led to the town’s taking action.
Ron Fisher, the current FRNCA president, as well as the president of the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association, said the town engineering department had said the Brewster House was in the worst condition of the 15 properties the civics had identified and one of only two that the town recommended by torn down.
“It got the conversation started,” Mr. Fisher said.
Photos: Jamie and Keri Minnick of Restoration Equity Group presented their plans last week about the Flanders Road building. Left: The building in its current state. (Tim Gannon photos). Right: A rendering of the Brewster House Hotel. (Courtesy image)