Business leaders from several of Lexington’s industries spoke in favor of a proposal to turn the Dana Home into an inn and restaurant Wednesday morning at the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Breakfast Forum.
From farmers to an airline leader to a hotel manager and school superintendent, several folks said a quintessentially New England bed and breakfast would benefit the town and, potentially, their businesses during the Oct. 12 forum at the Lexington Depot.
“These are the kids of things that revitalize the community and make it worth living here,” said Nick Cannalonga of Wagon Wheel Nursery.
According to the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, the Dana Home proposal was tapped to be the forum’s featured presentation due to the “project’s solid potential to enhance destination tourism locally.”
The current proposal, brought by Lexington resident Trisha Perez Kennealy, calls for 22 rooms between the Dana Home and an adjacent four-bedroom house on Massachusetts Avenue; a 14-tabletop restaurant inside the Dana Home and administrative offices in the barn between the two main buildings. Parking would involve enlarging the current parking area off Worthen Road and creating another 15-space lot between the two properties.
“We want people to come to Lexington,” Kennealy, a classically trained chef, said during the forum. “We want them to have a place to stay and have a meal that celebrates the bounty we have available to us here in Lexington.”
Farmer Jim Wilson, of Wilson Farm, said he has spoken with Kennealy about her proposal and would look forward to working with her to provide produce for the restaurant. “The Center screams for something like this,” Wilson said.
While Kennealy and her team—which includes landscape architect Gary Larson, attorney Edmund C. Grant and her father, Luis Perez, who specializes in renovating and restoring historic properties—have been making the rounds to town boards, much of the opposition has come from folks concerned about scope and parking.
Grant, who said the team intends to file a preliminary development and use plan in time to land the proposal on the annual Town Meeting warrant next spring, noted the residential area in which the Dana Home is located already includes Church of St. Brigid, Grace Chapel and the Hayden Recreation Center.
“We’re confident we can carry the two-thirds majority,” said Grant, referring to the vote the plans would need at Town Meeting. “We think this is a great project for the town. … What’s important to note is the really local touch. I think it all adds up to a strong commitment.”
Also speaking in favor of Kennealy’s plans to turn the Dana Home into an inn were Christopher Hartzell, complex general manager for the Aloft and Element hotels, and Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Hartzell said he would not view Kennealy’s project as competition, but rather would consider a 22-room bed and breakfast to be an extension of what his hotels can offer.
Belanger said she believes the project would enhance tourism in Lexington and the region, as well as creating jobs and providing a boost in tax and other revenues.
“Follow the laws, follow the Conservation Commission, they’re there for a reason,” Belanger said. “But really, get behind this project. It’ll enhance Lexington and the region.”
Although no one spoke against the proposal or specifically raised any concerns during the Chamber forum, residents in the past have questioned rezoning the parcels at 2027 and 2013 Mass Ave to allow a restaurant in a residential area, and whether putting parking up against Mass Ave would be wise.
“It is about scale,” said John Patrick, a Town Meeting member, at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting this summer. “I totally support a small, local inn. … This is not a small plan.”