531 Commercial Street

Give the builders of the new 531 Commercial Street this: in its street facades, they created as near a facsimile of the old 531 Commercial — which they tore down without approval from the Historic District Commission — as anyone might reasonably expect. To look at the 4,000-square-foot building from the street side, you’d be hard-pressed to identify its vintage as 2007, instead of 1900. The beach side, however, is a different matter. There, instead of a timber double-decker back porch, is a cascade of terraces.

The drama began in 2006 and followed a fairly standard script: (1) contractor is given permission to undertake rehabilitation of an old property in the Historic District; (2) once the work actually begins, contractor discovers that the old structure is in worse condition than expected; then (3) contractor says he is forced to tear down the old building completely, to the apparent surprise of town authorities.

In this case, the dramatis personae were Richard L. Bready of Nortek; his wife, Cheryl; and their contractor, Glenn A. Parker, of Parker Thompson (now Parker Construction). Parker was made to pay a $250-a-day fine, running from the time that the demolition was discovered until the time the new exterior was completed. (Pru Sowers, “Commercial St. Demo Draws Significant Fine,” The Banner, 25 January 2007; Steve Desroches, “Hefty Fines Issued for Illegal Demolition,” The Cape Codder/Wicked Local, 1 February 2007.) The architects were the Provincetown Design Group and the landscape architect was Ethan Poulan.

Parker Construction expresses pride in the project, which is featured as a “Beachfront Historic Colonial” on its Web site:

Parker Construction converted this multi-family home into a single family artist’s cottage. The historic colonial exterior was preserved, while the interior underwent a complete renovation into a modern, open space. Extraordinary millwork, stunning tile, and precious stones feature throughout the entire cottage. Exotic woods, such as Australian cypress were used, as well as recycled materials such as harvested antique old growth oak for the flooring.

To accommodate the client’s request for an open floor plan, Parker Construction installed a steel skeleton which was designed to meet building and structural requirements. A formidable challenge was integrating the historical exterior with the modern interior infrastructure while maintaining code compliance and the historical integrity of the home.

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