Wall Street renovation
BY AMANDA SCHOENBERG
With “for lease” signs dotting the outside, plans for the fire-damaged Wall Street Inn on Beach and Rodriguez streets are slowly falling into place.
Salinas-based architect Thomas J. Carleton hopes to submit plans to renovate the Wall Street Inn, designed in 1911 by architect William Weeks, to the city’s Planning Department in the next few weeks. A five-alarm fire on Jan. 5, 2005, destroyed the roof and charred the upper floors of the historic structure, leaving residents homeless.
In December, the Planning Commission approved initial plans to turn the 50-unit hotel into a residential building with 74 studios. Each floor would have two handicapped-accessible units, as well as a common area and laundry room.
A 10,000-square-foot area on the first floor is for lease. The space could be divided into several units, depending on tenant needs. Owner Abe Novin would like to see the return of a barbershop he said had been at the site for 100 years. He also hopes to add a restaurant that could cater to tenants and downtown passers-by.
“It’s going to be a very active corner, really part of the downtown,” Novin said.
The area has already changed significantly since he purchased the building three months before the fire, Novin said. The new Via del Mar housing project across Rodriguez Street and the Civic Center going up on the next block are reshaping downtown Watsonville, and he said he hopes the Wall Street Inn will be part of the transformation.
The biggest challenge in designing the building is not renovating the charred upper floors, according to Carleton. The roof and much of the fourth floor will be completely revamped because of fire damage. New materials will replace damaged original redwood, in part because of stricter building codes, Carleton said.
The toughest task will be bringing back the building’s splendor. Along with restoring the building’s unique flavor, Carleton hopes to make the massive interior atrium a welcoming public space.
“It is a magnificent building — a pretty unique treasure,” he said.
Carleton is making sure the building not only gets a fire fix-up, but also is restored to its early-20th-century grandeur. Down will come a 1950s fake stone “Mansard” roof on the Rodriguez Street exterior, in favor of an earlier tiled look. On the lower floors, workers will patch damaged walls and reconstruct wood blocks.
“It is amazing how much is still intact,” Carleton added.
Once plans are submitted and approved, Carleton estimated that reconstruction could begin in September. He hopes work will start on the roof, then move to interior units to make sure rain doesn’t douse the inside.
“We don’t want to go through another winter,” Carleton said.
Novin said rumors that he plans to sell the building are unfounded.
“There’s no sign for sale,” Novin said. “I’m not going to do such a thing right now. I don’t know why people come up with such a thing.”
(Published in 7/11/06 edition)
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