The following Letter To The Editor was written submitted by Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA – Managing Director, A4 Architecture. The views and opinions in this piece are not necessarily those of What’sUpNewp ownership, staff or advertisers.
To the Editor:
Something is happening at 236 Coggeshall Avenue that should be of concern not just to the immediate neighbors but to the Rhode Island community as a whole. At the very end of Coggeshall Avenue, long a street made up of small cottages and carriage houses, with barely any notice to the neighbors, a very un-neighborly building began rising out of the ground. About a week ago, steel columns and girders have sprung unexpectedly from a site like gigantic weeds where once a relatively modest house once sat.
Elevations of the structure, which were pulled from the building office after the steel structure appeared, show an enormous three story flat roofed building. Comments on Facebook posts that appeared comparted the structure to a motel or a penitentiary.
How does something like this happen to a site that is along the main scenic drive through Newport and adjacent to parcels governed by the Historic District? Equally incomprehensible is how the new owners could essentially sucker punch neighbors they have never met by trying to singlehandedly transform a charming neighborhood of shingle and clapboard cottages with a giant curved-front, flat-topped behemoth three to ten times larger than the other structures existing in this R-10A district. This has the feeling of an expensive tragedy unfolding in slow motion where the owners of the future building being built have no idea how poorly this new structure will be received and the adjoining neighbors were never accorded the opportunity to share the wisdom, experience and perspective gained from living for many decades in this charming, quiet neighborhood. To put the new structure into perspective, it will be more than 10 times the size of the cottage that has been sitting on the lot immediately next to it in the same zoning district for more than 60 years.
I am an architect and well understand that change is inevitable and even desirable in moderation. But Newport is a very special place because it has managed, against all the tides of poverty and prosperity, to preserve not only the historic structures which are central to American architectural history, but also to maintain the individual neighborhoods which have qualities and characters that are to be cherished in their own right. So many other places have been overwhelmed and destroyed by the drive to look like everywhere else. I truly hope that that is not Newport’s future as well and the future of this one development site will be important to determining where Newport is heading as a community and how those already living here will be treated by those that are just now arriving.
Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA
Managing Director, A4 Architecture