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Belhaven developer: Now is time to redevelop

Papajohns to use unused air space for new hotel
April 16, 2019

Story Location:
2 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

Rehoboth code allows commercial buildings to be 42 feet tall, so, after decades of waiting, the Papajohn family now wants to rebuild the Belhaven Hotel on the Boardwalk at Rehoboth Avenue.

Family elder John Papajohn and his son Alex Papajohn went before Rehoboth planning commission April 12 for a sketch plan review of a proposed four-story hotel that fronts the Boardwalk, and stretches from Rehoboth Avenue to Wilmington Avenue. The address is 2 Rehoboth Ave.

John Papajohn said his dad and his mother’s two brothers opened the family operation near the Boardwalk in 1938. About a decade later, 1947, he said the property was split, resulting in the property’s L-shaped layout. Like much of Rehoboth, the Storm of ‘62 destroyed the old Belhaven.

John Papajohn said he has always considered the property the Rock of Gibraltar, because no one can get to the beach or go on the Boardwalk without passing it.

John Papajohn said the family has been waiting for a long time to redevelop the land. There’s all this air up there that’s not being taken advantage of, he said.

Alex Papajohn said the proposed hotel would be a modern adaptation of the old Belhaven.

Architect Peter Fillat, owner of Fillat + Architecture of Baltimore, Md., was on hand to discuss details of the hotel. He and the family are committed to creating a quality piece of architecture, he said.

Fillat said the original design submitted to the city maximized hotel rooms, 121, but the new design cuts the total number of rooms to 100. The idea is to create more of a luxury product, with bigger rooms, he said.

The ground floor plan calls for approximately 13,800 square feet of retail space, and 5,000 square feet of restaurant-related space.

Fillat said the hotel is designed to meet the city’s 42-foot height restrictions, with roof embellishments that exceed that height.

Fillat said the big bugaboo at this point is the 10,000-square-foot porch on the second floor. As planned it is 24 feet wide, begins on the Boardwalk-facing side of the hotel, wraps around and runs the length of the hotel along Rehoboth Avenue. He said plans call for a porch which means it would count against the structure’s floor-to-area ratio.

Alex Papajohn said the number of hotel rooms is lower, but the plans still call for 121 parking spots. He said there’s an opportunity for tenant parking, which would help alleviate some parking issues downtown.

There are some well-known businesses in the building now – Candy Kitchen, The Ice Cream Store, and The Spice and Tea Exchange. John Papajohn said the plan is to have them all return.

Susan Frederick, former Rehoboth building inspector, is consulting with the Papajohn family on the project. She said the project also includes an outdoor pool, which is counted against FAR under code, but isn’t being included under FAR right now.

Attorney Tim Willard was on hand during the meeting representing the property owners of the parcel that fronts the Boardwalk and Wilmington Avenue, and would be surrounded by the proposed hotel. These property owners are cousins of the Papajohn family.

Willard said his clients weren’t against the proposed hotel, but he said they also want to protect the future developments rights of their property should they also decide to expand upward.

Go Fish owner Alyson Blyth said she was in favor of the project, but she was concerned about how the structure would affect the solar panels on the top of her building, which would immediately abut the hotel to the west. She said she was also concerned about how construction would affect her building’s structural integrity.

Planning commission members raised some concerns about underground parking so close to the ocean and that emergency stairwells for hotel guests from the upper floors exit to the building’s first floor lobby.

At the end of the discussion, the Papajohns said they would take comments into consideration, and then asked to be put on a future planning commission agenda so the project could continue to move forward.