HAMPTON — A new hotel and nearly 100 apartments could be coming to Route 1, as the town’s Planning Board got its first glimpse of Al Fleury’s vision for the development of the Webber Antiques property.
Three separate properties — located on Lafayette Road, High Street and Dearborn Avenue — could be merged into one major development featuring an 18-room hotel, 92-unit residential apartment building and a mixed-use building with four residential dwellings. The development would include underground parking and potential space for a small store or café, according to early designs submitted to the Planning Board.
Preliminary renderings of the development were shown to the Planning Board Wednesday night as Fleury’s attorney, Jay Pasay, and engineer Michael Keane walked members through their plan to bring more housing to downtown Hampton.
The properties are located at 495 Lafayette Road, where the antique shop has been located for 72 years, as well as 48 to 52 High St. and 8 Dearborn Ave. The project is a joint venture of Fleury’s with his brother Adam, and together they applied with LLCs named by Fleury’s young nephew – Hulkster LLC, and Ultimate Warrior LLC.
A letter requesting the Planning Board’s preliminary conceptual consultation describes the project as “an opportunity to revitalize the downtown area of Hampton while serving a critical need for rental housing and advancing the express purposes of the Town Center District.”
“What I think we have is a project that very much is in accord with the central tenets of the Town Center Historic District,” Pasay said to board members Wednesday.
A bird’s eye rendering of a proposed three-structure, 96-apartment development envisioned by local property owner Al Fleury, which would also include an 18-room hotel.
Board members had some concerns about traffic congestion and the development’s proximity to another residential project envisioned across the street, as well as for what will happen to the historic Webber barn built in 1800s. Still, several said they believed the early designs reflected careful consideration of the town and could be beneficial amid the housing crisis in the Seacoast.
“If you want to have people downtown, you’ve got to have buildings where people live,” Planning Board Chairman Tracy Emerick said. “I support the project.”
Fleury has been purchasing property for restaurants, apartments and one Hampton Beach hotel called the Surf House since he bought Wally’s Pub in 2004. For the current project, he purchased the High Street addresses in 2020 and got approval for residential units that year from the Planning Board.
This year, he purchased the Webber property with the intent of building something that could benefit the downtown. He did so around the same time his friend and fellow developer Tom Moulton purchased a property across the street to consider building apartments there.
The Moulton project has not moved beyond a preliminary discussion with the Planning Board members earlier this year. However, both properties have led to more conversation this year about how Hampton can gain more apartments for people who work in the Seacoast.
Rising prices in Hampton and other Seacoast towns have seen many in the workforce moving out to more affordable areas, which officials and business owners have said is hurting their ability to find help. Pasay told the board that Fleury cannot find enough people to hire for even his own restaurants in town.
“There’s just no places for his employees to find housing in Hampton,” Pasay said. “The professional force can’t afford to live in Hampton.”
Wednesday, board members shared differing opinions over the aesthetics of the building given the historic New England neighborhood. The tallest of three buildings would be 65 feet, higher than what is permitted in the zoning district, meaning it would require a variance from the Zoning Board, according to Town Planner Jason Bachand.
Board member Ann Carnaby said she preferred roofs that were not flat to better fit with the neighborhood. The hotel and mixed-use buildings are proposed to have slanted roofs, but the largest building with the most apartments would be flat.
A proposed mixed-use building with residential and commercial space, potentially part of a major residential development envisioned for Route 1 by property owner Al Fleury.
“I can’t see anything New England about this,” Carnaby said. Keane said a thatched roof would make the building appear even taller and more imposing.
Board member Keith Lessard suggested they use brick to give the building a more historic look, similar to mill-style construction found in Exeter, which Bachand said was a good idea. Concerns about traffic and the amount of parking available were also raised, with board member Alex Loiseau saying the cut-through in the complex would be appealing to people trying to skip the light at the High Street intersection.
Still, board members said, the proposal looked promising given the need for housing, Carnaby saying they had “obviously done a lot of caring work.” Bachand said he thought it was “a great first shot at it conceptually.”
One concern raised was what will become of the barn and home at the Webber property, out of which the Webber family has sold antiques for decades. Harvey Webber closed the store in October to make way for Fleury’s proposal and said at the time he hoped the historic elements of the property will be incorporated into the project.
“It just really hurts my soul,” said Carnaby, a member of the town Heritage Commission. “What are you planning to do with the Webber House?”
Renderings of a proposed 18-room hotel, one of three structures that could be part of a mixed use development at the former Webber Antiques property that includes 96 new apartments.
Pasay said the team is “exploring all options.” Keane said it would be difficult to keep structural elements of the buildings intact but could likely incorporate its aesthetic components. They said the design of the building will be similar in appearance to the home that was there since the 19th century.
Bachand also asked if there will be any workforce housing, calling affordable housing “something that the town needs.”
“It’s something that we’re very interested in, so I’m hoping that would be incorporated in this project,” Bachand said.
Pasay said whether the project features affordable housing as defined by state statute is unclear yet. However, he said, the intent of the project is to meet the need for affordable housing in the Seacoast.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be by the statute a workforce housing component to this,” Pasay said. “I think there’s going to be a component of this project which is oriented to that for sure.”