BERLIN – A corner of downtown Berlin will likely have a new look in the future as plans are underway for a major renovation of the building.
Next week, the Berlin Historic District Commission will consider a proposed renovation of what’s commonly referred to as the Burbage building. The building includes storefronts on Pitts Street, such as Burley Inn Tavern and Toy Town, as well as storefronts on Main Street.
“I think it’s a shot in the arm for the downtown,” Planning Director Dave Engelhart said.
The extensive renovations would include the removal of utility poles along Pitts Street, as utilities would be moved underground and Victorian street lamps would be installed.
“That would be a homerun for everyone,” Engelhart said.
Carol Rose, chair of the town’s historic district commission, said she was excited about the planned upgrades. Though the commission will meet with developers at Wednesday’s meeting, members have already taken a preliminary look at the renderings submitted to Engelhart’s office. Rose said commission members were very excited about the fact that the façade on the Main Street side of the building would be returned to what it looked like when the building was first constructed.
Having grown up in Berlin, she’s thrilled that the Pitts Street side of the structure, currently coated in stucco, would get a face lift.
“I’m excited with their vision for redevelopment,” she said. “I feel it complements the whole project but has its own identity.”
While plans are being reviewed by the historic district commission, the developers have also been in contact with Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director. She said they hoped to keep the building’s existing tenants but would have space for others, as the interior of the building is being renovated and will be broken up somewhat.
“We were talking about possible businesses that would work well,” Wells said.
She said she hoped the developer could identify some interested businesses so the spaces could be designed with their needs in mind. Wells also suggested renovation plans include large lighted windows at each storefront.
“People like to walk down the street while they’re eating their ice cream and window shop,” she said.
After having seen the success of the town’s façade grant program and its impact on the downtown landscape, Wells is pleased about the possibility of even more structural improvements in the business district. She pointed out that some areas were seeing business closures as a result of COVID-19.
“We’re doing the opposite,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in the demand for commercial businesses downtown.”