Bucks County Herald

Gerry Monigan: New Hope Notebook

Odette’s project dealt a snowy blow

You couldn't blame the Gateway to New Hope people if they felt they just can't catch a break.

The group planning to redevelop the Odette's property has been working with the borough administration to expedite a permit that would enable them to demolish the nonhistoric additions to the original River House, which would be the first step in moving the 1784 building onto the plot at the southern tip of Main Street.

To get that permit, they need a certificate of appropriateness from the borough council.

The council, however, must first receive a recommendation from the Historic Architectural Review Board. To that end, HARB had agreed to a special meeting March 14 – and it was snowed out.

A new date has yet to be set. Dee Dee Bowman, HARB chairwoman, said a quorum of four of the members could not be assembled in the next two weeks. That means a decision might have to wait until the next regularly scheduled HARB meeting, April 4.

So Gateway is still stuck in a holding pattern.

One possibility is that the council, at its March 21 meeting, could issue the certificate without HARB input because the Odette's building has become a health and safety hazard. Moreover, HARB's recommendation is not binding, and the board's concern is with the original four walls, not the appendages added in recent decades.

Wednesday morning, Borough Manager Cathie Thomas said these are all issues that will be addressed as soon as possible. “We had a good plan, but it got blown up because of the weather,” she said. “We're trying to make the process work for everyone involved.”

At the March 6 council work session, Gateway principal Scott Kelley described the $600,000 procedure for moving the original River House when a demolition permit is approved.

First, the site will be secured with a fence. Then a set of new interior walls will be built up against the existing walls, providing added stability. Next, the additions will be removed.

Then the gaps in the walls that connected the main building to the additions will be filled with blocks, for stability. After the building is settled on the new site, stone from the demolished northern addition will be used to replace the blocks in the gaps, as that stone is a good match with the stone of the original walls.

Next, the partial foundations of the additions will be filled with crushed stone.

Then the building will be supported from below, using the new, temporary interior walls, and the area beneath the original walls will be excavated. That will allow the insertion of the mini tractors, which will actually transport the building, beneath the original walls.

It will be an interesting project to watch – once it gets started.

Three important items definitely will be on the agenda of the March 21 council meeting: the proposal to hire Barth Consulting Group to help revitalize the borough; the proposed dog-control ordinance; and a presentation on the possible purchase of parking kiosks to replace the existing meters.

Public input is likely to be … lively.

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