Hotel won't be part of new project

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Candy shop would return as part of beach site proposal

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, December 9, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — The owners of the old Surf Hotel, which was destroyed in the devastating February 2010 fire that took out an entire block of Hampton Beach businesses, are moving forward with plans for the Ashworth Avenue site.

John McKean and family came before the town's Planning Board Wednesday with a proposal to construct five one-story commercial units at the location, as well as maintaining a commercial parking lot in the back of the property.

The board accepted jurisdiction over the project, sending it out to department heads for their review.

Mike Whitcher, of Whitcher Builders, said the McKean family had initially intended to rebuild the hotel with retail businesses on the first floor.

However, due to financing issues, they decided to abandon the hotel portion of the project for now.

Whitcher said the project now includes just the first floor retail spaces, one of which will be the old Surf Sweet Shop.

When asked by the board if the hotel was a possibility in the future, Whitcher said yes.

The building would be built to allow for an addition of a hotel in the future, he said.

"This building will have the ability to go up," Whitcher said. "So that will always be an option."

The commercial parking lot in the back would consist of 48 spaces, which would be needed if the McKean's ever decided to move forward with second phase and construct the hotel.

The initial proposal called a five-floor hotel with retail spaces on the first floor.

While the old Surf Hotel had 15 hotels rooms, the new one was planned to have 42 rooms and six residential units.

The McKean family said their goal is to get the project approved so they can start construction to have the building resurrected before next summer.

The Planning Board will discuss the project further at its January meeting.

One of the biggest supporters of the new project was neighbor Bob Mitchell, of Mrs. Mitchell's Gift Shop, who rebuilt his store last year.

"I fully support what they are doing here," Mitchell said. "The town should do anything they can to get businesses on their feet rather than continue the bad trend of empty lots."

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