Published in the March 1, 2017 edition


LYNNFIELD — The Historical Commission and Ship Mall’s owners are in the process of developing an agreement that will honor The Ship restaurant’s memory and history.

Ship Mall’s owners recently filed an application with the Zoning Board of Appeals seeking to demolish The Ship structure at 24 Broadway and replace it with a new building containing 7,580 square feet of retail space. The proposed project also includes building a 2,500 square foot drive-up restaurant and coffee shop, and a 2,500 square foot freestanding bank branch building that will be located next to the Christmas Tree Shops. The Christmas Tree Shops will remain at the site.

The Ship closed its doors recently. According to the restaurant’s website, former Gloucester sea captain James F. Wilkinson built The Ship in May 1925, which originally opened as a small refreshment stand on the Newburyport Turnpike. The restaurant was a popular dining destination for decades.

The Ship Mall’s owners agreed to delay pulling a demolition permit and to do a walk-through of the property with the Historical Commission to determine if any parts of the building have any historical significance that could be preserved or incorporated into the new strip mall. The site visit took place on Feb. 16.

“It was a great tour and there were a lot of great stories told,” said Historical Commission Chairman Steve Todisco during the commission’s Feb. 22 meeting.

Attorney Ted Regnante, who is representing Ship Mall’s owners, said the project was presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals last month. He noted the Planning Board recently signed off on the project in a 4-1 vote. He said the project was discussed at a Conservation Commission meeting last week as well.

In the wake of the Historical Commission’s request to incorporate elements of The Ship into the new strip mall, Regnante said the design team worked to “come up with some alternatives that would pay homage to The Ship’s memory.”

“One of the things that was suggested was that we retain some of the character of The Ship that would be incorporated into the new construction,” said Regnante.

While Phase Zero Design Architect Anh Nguyen incorporated portions of the existing mast into the new design, Regnante said Ship Mall’s owners “are not that excited about the mast.”

Georgetown Capital Management Partner and Chief Investment Officer Nick Fay concurred with Regnante’s sentiment.

“The only thing we have discussed internally that we would push back a little bit on is the mast,” said Fay. “If you could work with us on the mast, we would be grateful. We are looking for a resolution that would be amenable to everybody. We want to continue to collaborate.”

After conducting the site visit to The Ship, Todisco said it’s apparent the existing mast was made out of PVC Pipe. He said the new mast “doesn’t have to be the exact mast.” He noted a building located in Boston’s Seaport District as well as the Wilshire Grand Center skyscraper that is under construction in Los Angeles have raised structures.

“It could be a decorative vertical element that would be attached to the building,” said Todisco.

Todisco showed the Ship Mall’s representatives an old photograph of George Page’s Colonial Country Club taken in 1946 that included raised structures similar to flagpoles attached to the clubhouse.

“The masts looked fabulous,” said Todisco. “That is the intention. It would be some expression of what was there before. I think it would be an asset to the project.”

Ship Mall’s representatives were receptive of Todisco’s proposal and took pictures of the photograph.

“I am glad you brought (the photograph) because it helps us understand what we could do,” said Fay. “We can meet that vertical element.”

Nguyen said Todisco’s proposal was “much more practical” and said he will work to incorporate the idea into a new design.

Regnante also said windows and glass will be installed at the strip mall that will “duplicate what is in The Ship.” He said the front of the new building will also “mimic portions of the exterior of the existing Ship.”

“The other thing we have done is we have taken the eagle and the six stars on the back of the back of The Ship and we have incorporated those into the structure itself,” said Regnante.

In a phone interview with the Villager, Regnante said the Eagle and stars will be visible to motorists driving on Route 1 North.

Regnante also said the new strip mall’s color scheme will resemble The Ship’s current colors. He said a plaque will be installed in front of the new bank building.

“(The plaque) will pay homage to The Ship,” said Regnante. “On the site plan, we have a grass area and we think that will be an appropriate area for the plaque. We are completely open to the design of that plaque.”

Todisco said the commission has some ideas about what could be engraved on the plaque.

Historical Commission member Steven Richard said the Historical Society would like to have historical artifacts from The Ship.

Regnante said a planned auction that would sell some of the artifacts included in The Ship has been cancelled. He proposed having members of the commission visit the vacated restaurant in order to identify which items the town wants to preserve.

“Whatever you guys want, you can have it,” said Regnante. “We will pack them up.”

After further discussion, Town Counsel Tom Mullen proposed having Regnante send a letter to Building Inspector Jack Roberto stating he would not be requesting a demolition permit until three days after the Historical Commission reviews the project’s revised plans on March 22.

Regnante expressed his support for Mullen’s request.

Fay thanked the Historical Commission for being open to exchanging different ideas about the strip mall proposal.

“I think we have a stronger project than we did a month ago,” said Fay.

Todisco agreed.

“I think you guys did a great job with it,” said Todisco. “When I look at it, I see The Ship.”