Owner Stephen Bradley plans to convert the Berry Pond Motel into rental property with the Cup and Crumb Bakery occupying a new barn-style section of the new facility which will sit on the existing building footprint. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MOULTONBOROUGH — The owner of the former Berry Pond Motel and an adjacent property has won conditional approval to rebuild on the same footprint to accommodate a bakery and adjacent rental units.
Stephen Bradley, who also owns the New Woodshed Restaurant, said it was a wild and rocky journey to arrive at the current proposal for the Berry Pond Center.
He first tried to acquire the property, which consists of the motel on 1.25 acres and the former Country Fare Inn on 0.42 acres two years ago. The property had been for sale for a year, and Bradley made an offer, but in looking into the buildings further, he discovered a number of structural and other problems with the Country Fare. The rambling yellow structure originally built as a residence around 1820 had been altered and expanded to accommodate a doctor’s office, a boarding house, a bed-and-breakfast, and a bar-restaurant. The problems he found were significant enough that he tried to renegotiate the price, and when the family refused, he walked away from the deal in December 2015.
The property remained on the market and, after the bank initiated foreclosure proceedings in August 2016, he made another offer, which the family accepted.
“I had no real plans for the property,” Bradley said, although he had more specific ideas for the motel.
“Part of the reason I like this building,” he said of the motel, “is it’s a derelict building and I felt I could do something better with it.”
Knowing the difficulties his staff at the New Woodshed Restaurant had in finding housing, he thought of converting the building to seasonal housing. As he investigated the possibilities, he found major life-safety code violations that would have to be addressed.
“I could put a lot of money into this building and it would still look like a '60s motel,” he said. “I want to be proud of it.”
The Moultonborough Heritage Commission approached Bradley about preserving the Country Fare, citing its long history and prominence in the community. He considered removing the back wing that had been built onto the original house and restoring the main building. But there were problems.
“I found it would have to be taken back down to the shell, and rebuilt,” he said. To meet current building codes and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he found, “It would make no economic sense.”
He decided to raze that building and to replace the motel — known to local residents as “Spider Alley” due to insect infestations — with a new structure on the same footprint. He hired Samyn-D’Elia Architects to design the building — and then hit another roadblock.
In the wake of Dollar General’s arrival in town, residents who wanted to preserve the local character of the village sought a change in the zoning ordinance to create a Village Overlay District with stricter controls over what can be built. Bradley’s plans, which were designed around the existing ordinance, no longer conformed to the regulations.
A whole new set of plans had to be drawn up, but it gave Bradley a chance to reconfigure the two lots to preserve and enhance the green space on the property while maintaining the architectural integrity of downtown Moultonborough.
Plans call for a one-and-a-half-story barnlike structure, with a second floor on the back half only. Next to that will be a 2,100-square-foot, one-story rental space that could be configured into two or three units, depending on who wants to rent it. Bradley said it could accommodate business and professional offices, or provide gift shop and gallery space.
Bradley already has a tenant for the 4,300-square-foot barn: the Cup and Crumb Bakery. He said the owners of the business have outgrown their current space at the corner of Route 109 and Old Route 109 and are anxious to expand into the new building where they will have a commercial kitchen with a 40-seat bakery-café. There will be a cathedral ceiling with post-and-beam construction, he said.
The site of the historic inn will be landscaped with additional parking space set into a retaining wall so it is hidden from view when approaching from the village.
He will be rehabilitating the Berry Pond sign and planting a raised flower bed around it.
Bradley’s plans called for ornamental trees that would blossom during the year without growing too tall, but the Planning Board asked for shade trees, as well as a lighting plan for the property. Those were conditions set into the approval granted on June 28.
There still was a great deal of opposition to the plan from preservationists who wanted to keep the Country Fare standing, and Bradley offered the building free of charge to anyone willing to remove it.
He said that, with the conditional approval in hand, he anticipates being able to start construction by Sept. 1 and he hopes to open on May 1.
“We want to create a sense of coming home,” Bradley said.
An architectural rendering shows the proposed Berry Pond Center being developed by Stephen Bradley, owner of the New Woodshed Restaurant. (Courtesy graphic)