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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin HDC approves Pitts Street project

By Greg Ellison

(Nov. 11, 2021) After debating the merits of stucco over brick and the possibility of enlarging the windows, Berlin’s Historic District Commission approved architectural updates for the corner property at 16 Pitts St. at its meeting last Wednesday.

Samantha Pielstick, representing property owner Jack Burbage, returned to review planning details left unsettled during an appearance in mid-October.

“We’re just trying to make it better and make it fit,” she said. “We’re just removing the architectural details that were added to the property.”

Pielstick said the site is intended to be used as a new upscale sports bar, 410 Social.

“The additions that they made were the doors that you guys approved last month,” she said. “The reason that we choose the red is they’re going to be a very heavily Maryland theme.”

Commission Chairwoman Carol Rose asked about previous discussions concerning the removal of stucco on the brick façade.

Pielstick said the masonry contractors they consulted said the removal process could damage the bricks.

Commission member Laura Sterns also conducted a recent site inspection.

“Part of the historical significance of it is how it has transitioned through the years,” she said. “Some part of me feels this building is charming and it’s part of Berlin.”

Sterns said removing existing white bricks could permit windows to be enlarged.

“The windows are small and that’s what is making it look unappealing,” she said. “My fear is we’re taking away the charm of Berlin with something that looks new and shiny.”

Commission member Mary Moore said rooflines should also be considered.

“Always look at the roofline, that’s the history of the town,” she said. “This isn’t Main Street, it’s a back street which is never as elegant or as grand.”

Commission member Robert Poli said the Maryland Historic Trust classifies the property as a two-story stucco over brick, flat roof with exposed decorative cornice.

“We need to keep it that way,” he said. “If we continue and go ahead and modernize some of these historic buildings, we may lose grants for storefronts … if the Maryland Historic Trust finds out.”

Poli, while noting exterior stucco can be found on other town structures, raised further concerns.

“My issue is the brick work underneath,” he said. “You have white brick over red brick.”

Even worse, Poli said sections of white brick are starting to pull away from the exterior wall.

Planning Director Dave Engelhart said the Maryland Historic Trust property rehab standards mandate buildings should be used for historical purposes or newer uses with minimal changes to defining characteristics.

“Historical characteristics of a property shall be retained and preserved,” he said. “The removal of historical materials or alteration of features … that characterize a property shall be avoided.”

Maryland Historic Trust guidelines also recommend avoiding removal of architectural features.

Engelhart said it is commonplace for property uses to change over the years.

“Those changes that have acquired historical significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved,” he said. “Deteriorating historical features shall be repaired instead of replaced.”

Sterns asked about removal of white brick on the building’s façade.

“We will have to see if it can be removed,” she said. “Our plan was to paint the brick.”

Turning to windows, Pielstick said based on earlier discussions the intent was to retain current dimensions.

“The restaurant owners had originally considered replacing windows but [realized] it was too costly,” she said.

Pielstick said business developers subsequently decided to devote resources to replacing an entrance door.

“They have put in for a grant to replace the doors,” she said.

Rose said the door selection would also need to be approved.

“If they are doing it, we have to meet with them,” she said.

Pielstick said restaurant ownership plans to purchase the new wooden door, which would be installed as part of the larger repairs.

Sterns recommended removing cornice work on the Pitts Street side of the property but retaining comparable features on the William Street section.

Rose asked about the potential to remove currently exposed exhaust fans.

Pielstick said the fate of exhaust fans would remain unknown until kitchen schematics are finalized.

If exhaust fans are able to be removed an associated awning could be connected to run on both street sides of the property.

Pielstick said although the property is owned by a single party the site consists of three separate parcels.

Property owner Jack Burbage said a master plan has yet to be established as to how the storefronts would connect.

“We’ll do what you want within reason,” he said. “We all want it to look better.”

Poli forwarded a motion to approve the site improvements with a host of conditions.

Cornice work on the William Street would be retained but removed on the Pitts Street side.

Exterior stucco would be repaired and matched as closely as possible to the existing pattern of the building.

All windows would remain the current dimensions.

Awnings would be installed on both the Pitts and William Street sides and connected by a rounded corner.

Exterior color selections would be similar to an “oyster white,” for the entire building façade including brick work.

The commission voted to approve the conditions with Rose the sole vote in opposition.

“Stucco, white brick and all that, I just can’t vote for it,” she said.

Burbage worried that the oyster white could prove too light a hue for the entire building and said alternative color selections might be submitted for consideration.

“Maybe a darker color would stand out more,” he said.

Moore expressed gratitude for the level of research conducted into historical architectural standards.

“You really did your due diligence on that building,” she said.

Engelhart said commission members could approve the plans contingent on receipt of revised drawings reflecting the points outlined.

“I’m happy that were coming to the point to being approved,” Pielstick said.