BAR HARBOR, Maine — As it draws close to clearing the final permitting hurdles to its latest local building project, Ocean Properties has begun tearing down buildings and clearing land to make room for its planned $12 million hotel on West Street.
Eben Salvatore, the firm’s director of operations for Mount Desert Island, said Friday that Ocean Properties has been issued demolition and construction permits for part of the building, which will have 102 guest rooms. Because the road Lennox Place will bisect the hotel, the building will have two foundations, he said, one on either side.
Work has started at the western end of the project site, at the corner of Rodick and West streets. According to Salvatore, the firm expects to begin work on the remainder of the property in the next few weeks.
“We’ve poured some footings,” he said.
The one-story building housing the Bar Harbor Whale Museum is still standing to allow museum staff time to remove the collection and put it in storage, he said, while some items will be saved from the Quarterdeck Restaurant at the corner of Main and West streets for reuse.
Salvatore said groundwork for the building’s three elevators will have to be done before the foundation walls are poured. He said L.E. Norwood of Bar Harbor is expected to do the foundation work.
The firm and its contractors plan to work through the winter but the hotel likely won’t open until spring of 2012, according to Salvatore. He said the firm could have started work on the project last May, but didn’t want to interfere with tenants or neighboring businesses by creating congestion and noise during Bar Harbor’s busy summer season.
For the same reason, he said, work likely will be put on hold during the busy months next summer.
“It’s not a realistic goal to be open next year,” he said.
Salvatore said a name for the hotel likely wouldn’t be chosen until construction is nearly complete.
Despite work getting under way, the town has yet to give final approval to some traffic flow changes the firm is proposing for roads that abut the hotel property. Ocean Properties is seeking permission from the town to redesign the flow of traffic on Lennox Place, part of lower Rodick Street, and York Street, all of which also are used for access to a town-owned parking lot behind where the hotel will be built.
According to Salvatore and town officials, Lennox Place would become one-way off West Street, York Street would be widened to allow for a larger turning radius, and two-way traffic would be allowed on Rodick Street between York and West streets. The Town Council is expected to consider giving final approval to these proposed changes at its Nov. 16 regular meeting.
The firm’s proposal was rejected in February by the municipal planning board on the grounds that the proposed building exceeded the number of stories allowed in the neighborhood. The board also ruled that the hotel plan did not have enough long-term residential space, which is mandated for the project by the town’s land use ordinance.
The planning board’s rejection subsequently was overturned by the town’s appeals board, however, which essentially gave town approval to the firm’s proposed building plan.