NANTUCKET CURRENT: PRELIMINARY PLANS FILED FOR “NEW DOWNTOWN”

Preliminary plans have been filed for the “new downtown” development pitched by the group of investors that recently dropped $10.75 million to buy The Downyflake restaurant property and three adjacent parcels on Sparks Avenue. The conceptual sketch plans submitted to the Planning Board reveal a three-story, mixed-use building with an underground parking garage. The investors are considering a wide range of elements for the development that could incorporate restaurants, including a relocated Downy Flake, retail space, business and medical offices, a personal fitness gym, apartments, some of which they intend to be “affordable,” as well as a bowling alley. The underground parking garage would include 70 parking spaces, in addition to 74 surface level spaces, according to the plans filed by Daniel Mulloy, of Site Design Engineering, on behalf of the investment group. The conceptual designs will be reviewed by the Nantucket Planning Board at its May 10th meeting.

Simultaneously, the investors also submitted preliminary plans for a 12-lot subdivision centered around a cul-de-sac for the same properties off Sparks Avenue, perhaps as an alternative if the mixed-use development runs into challenges.

Leading the development effort are Christopher Fiumara and Daniel Najarian, the co-founders of the Boston-based Crowd Lending Inc., a commercial real estate lender. Property records show their partners in the project include Jared Gerstenblatt and Christopher Grimaldi, managing partners of the New York brokerage firm Chimera Securities.

“I’ve been coming to the island since I was 15-years-old, I’m a part-time resident who is there a lot in the winter,” said Fiumara in an interview last month. “I know the needs of the island. This is pro-Nantucket. It’s for Nantucket residents, geared for year-round residents.”

Specifically on the Downyflake, which recently reopened for the season, Fiumara said “They’ve been around for 85 years. It’s a tradition and we want to keep them in here.”

The current owners and operators of the Downyflake restaurant business, Pate Kennedy and Ron Oldham, stated in a recent letter to The Inquirer and Mirror that the new property owners from Crowd Lending Inc. had informed them the current lease would be honored, and that they are supportive of the investors’ plans for the properties.

“We agree that this area could benefit from an infusion of thoughtful development,” Kennedy wrote “However, the reporting that the Downyflake may be relocating in the near future is only speculative. A picture of future building plans with a sign of the Downyflake on the front is premature. After many years of doing business downtown, Ron and I have come to enjoy the current mid-Island location of the Downyflake. We would be delighted if we could remain a part of the upcoming renovation, which includes 18 Sparks Avenue. However, the Downflake has been operated successfully through eighty-six years in several locations. We are passionate about the restaurant business, and we are very happy with our current breakfast/lunch venture at the Downyflake. We have no plans of retiring in the near future. When we do come to that juncture, we intend to leave the Downyflake in the care of another restaurant couple, who has a similar mission for the business: to keep gently moving the operation forward, while continuing to protect the historical roots of this iconic Nantucket eatery.”

Meanwhile, Fiumara and his partners are already lobbying the town to consider using the old fire station property across the street as a parking lot to serve “the new downtown” area. They’ve even gone as far as drafting a rendering of what it could look like.

Fiumara said the reaction to the proposed development so far has been largely positive.

“The people who live there, they can be tough with new change, but I would say 75 percent of the feedback has been positive. Twenty-five percent has been negative, but they want live in the 1600s.

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