CHESTERTOWN — Mum’s no longer the word.
On Monday night, plans for redevelopment of Chester River waterfront property at the foot of Cannon Street were made public during the Chestertown Mayor and Council meeting.
Donald J. Urgo Sr., who was accompanied by his son Don Jr., told town officials that he now had the property — which includes the 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille restaurant and bar that has been shuttered since a January 2022 fire there — under contract and he intended to close on it.
According to the real estate Multiple Listing Service database, the price is $899,000.
The plan is to demolish the 5,100-square-foot structure and rebuild, “combine on the site a really nice restaurant as well as a very nice inn that would be in compliance with the architecture and history of the area, which is very important to us,” Urgo Sr., who is president and CEO of Bethesda-headquartered Urgo Hotels & Resorts, told the mayor and council.
Urgo said he has retained John Hutchison Architecture of Chestertown and Phillips & Donovan Architects of Pennsylvania.
Urgo said the team is confident they can fit a restaurant and 40- to 50-room inn on the site, which is adjacent to the Port of Chestertown Marina. He said his vision was for a restaurant that would be “mid-priced,” good seafood, good steaks at a moderate price — “something that would be very much Chesapeake Bay-to-table and local farm-to-table.”
As an aside Urgo said he had been asked by someone representing Washington College to look at the nearby college-owned Chestertown Armory property. He said he did so about a year ago and concluded that it wasn’t practical to convert that building into a hotel.
Urgo showed examples of completed projects in Canada and the Adirondacks, New York, demonstrating, he said, “the fact that we’re very, very careful about developing properties that everyone in town can be proud of, that adhere to the culture and the history of the area.”
While giving a slide presentation of the Chestertown site, architect Joe Phillips of Phillips & Donovan said they are very interested in maintaining the view to the river that currently exists.
He told town officials that the concept they wanted to get across is a building (restaurant) that parallels the Chester River, which will be lower, and a block of guest rooms that will be perpendicular to the river and will span over some of the parking. By being able to get under the block of guest rooms there will be no loss of parking; i.e., the proposed parking area would have at least as many spaces as there are now.
There will be two floors of guest rooms, 21 guest rooms per floor, Phillips said.
He said keeping the guest rooms perpendicular to the river would afford as much view as possible around the taller block and over the lower block.
Phillips said they would aim to enhance and enlarge the deck area around the waterfront structure, for both dining and sitting.
To enter the site, you would come down Cannon Street and make a right into the parking area.
Following Phillips’ presentation, Town Attorney Chris Drummond, who was seated in the audience, stated that the mayor and council don’t have any decision-making authority on this project. That comes under the purview of the town’s Historic District Commission and Planning Commission.
“It’s very nice that you’ve made this presentation,” Drummond told Phillips, “but the approving authorities are elsewhere.”
Urgo, who had returned to his seat in the audience, and Phillips both said they understood that.
“We realize there’s a process to go through … but wanted to present this to council as well,” Phillips added.
Mayor David Foster told the Urgo team that he wanted to express his appreciation to them for showing interest in the town and “for recognizing that all of us, I think without exception, really miss having a waterfront restaurant. And, there are quite a number of people who have come to Chestertown and said, ‘Gee, I wish there was a place to stay,” Foster said.
The mayor made no other commitment than to say he’d love to have a waterfront restaurant and he’d love to be able to tell people “there’s a room for you right down the street.”
Foster noted that the multi-million-dollar overhaul of the town-owned marina was done with the anticipation that there would be a restaurant there. Not having an eatery there impacts the viability of the marina, Foster said.
Council members Tim O’Brien, Jose Medrano and Meghan Efland thanked the Urgo team for their presentation. (Councilman Tom Herz, whose ward includes the 98 Cannon St. site, joined the meeting after this agenda item.)
Efland said there had been many questions from the public about what was going on with the 98 Cannon property, and the council had not been able to talk about it until now.
“By making this public, it can start a dialogue and people can start giving feedback,” Efland said.