GROTON — After months of negotiations to buy the property and line up necessary permits, the new owners of 128 Main St. have begun site work in earnest, preparing for the day when a new Groton Inn will literally rise from the ashes of the old.
That work began on Monday, Dec. 8, as construction vehicles moved back and forth over the scarred and empty ground, grading and leveling prior to digging out and laying in foundations for the buildings planned for the 8.5 acre site.
But even before the construction phase of the project began, owners Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC had to prepare the property by way of soil removal.
“Before the demolition of the building site we had to conduct some soil remediation,” said Ferris. “We completed that for the $100,000 we had put aside for it. I don’t recall the number of cubic yards removed but that’s all been buttoned up with the state inspectors’ approval. That gave us the green light for the demolition of the buildings.”
Removal of the soil was due to traces of asbestos found on the site. At one time, owners of the property had used parts of it as a private dumping area.
Ferris said that plans call for the demolition of all the buildings including former apartment units and the existing carriage house that former owner George Pergantis had once planned to use as a seafood restaurant.
Pergantis had been owner of the Groton Inn since 1979 when the 333-year-old structure was destroyed by fire in 2011. At the time, Pergantis had operated a Greek restaurant at the inn as well as lodgings.
Following the fire, Pergantis had attempted to start a seafood restaurant in a carriage house that had survived the fire and that had been used in the past as a function hall. But difficulties with town land use boards delayed the permitting process until Pergantis gave up his plans.
Some time later, developers Ferris and Cooper entered the picture and began to explore the possibility of building a replica of the old Groton Inn on the same site.
Amid rising excitement in town, Ferris and Cooper submitted their plans to the Planning Board and the Historic Districts Commission and over the course of a year, eventually had their designs approved. Plans include construction of a main inn building facing Main Street that will be a replica of the original.
The new building will consist of a ground floor with room for a gift shop, 50-seat restaurant, function room, and office space while second and third floors will hold a total of 29 guest rooms and a basement area with studio and office space, and a gym.
Next door, a carriage house will include a caretaker’s apartment on the second floor with a ground floor given over to a possible rental shop for skis, bicycles and other sporting equipment or community space.
On the east side of the property, a trio of other townhouse-style buildings will offer permanent one- and two-bedroom rental spaces with views of nearby Gibbet Hill.
In addition, short-term rental units will occupy a building on the west side, immediately to the rear of the inn, that planners have called “the stables.”
Before Pergantis’ sudden death in September, the developers had hoped to break ground on the project as early as last August but those plans had to be delayed.
“Demolition of the existing buildings including the pool will continue until the end of the week,” said Ferris of work begun on Dec. 8. “The rest of the site will then be leveled to some degree and some molding of the topography in places. After that, we’ll pour all of the foundation footers by the end of December.”
Ferris said that for the inn and other buildings, full basements will be dug out before the foundations are poured, something that he said could be done even in cold weather.
“We also have a memorandum of understanding with the Groton Historical Society that if we find anything of historical significance during the excavation process, they’ll be allowed to look it over,” said Ferris.
“We’re probably going to be mulling over whether to continue with construction as the winter progresses,” Ferris said. “It all depends on Mother Nature, which will dictate what direction we’ll go.”
Ferris said that weather-permitting, there is no reason why full-fledged construction of the inn proper can not continue through the winter months.
That said, the next main thrust of construction at the site is likely to begin in earnest next April and continue on to the following December when finish work will take over. Owners hope to decorate the interior of the inn with various historical artifacts collected from local sources.
“We’ve reached out to several folks with items they were able to collect,” said Ferris. “Right now, we’re trying to track down and hopefully buy the inn’s original check-in desk that we think is in Maine. And if anyone else has any artifacts they would like to donate or loan for use in the inn, feel free to contact us.”
Those interested in making a donation or a loan of historical artifacts can reach Ferris or Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ferris said that pictures from the construction site can be viewed on the company’s Facebook page and that soon, he hopes to include a webcam set up so that anyone can watch construction take place 24-hours-a-day in real time.
If all goes according to schedule, Ferris and Cooper hope to hold the new inn’s grand opening on May 1, 2016, just in time for local high school graduations and Mother’s Day.
“Reaction by everyone in town has been very positive,” said Ferris. “Everyone is very excited about the project. In fact, there have actually been some people who want to make wedding reservations already!”