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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    Owner plans gallery, apartment at former Hot Rod Cafe in New London

    The former Hot Rod Cafe Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, on Bank Street in downtown New London. An application has been filed to transform the restaurant into a gallery and apartment. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    The former Hot Rod Cafe Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, on Bank Street in downtown New London. An application has been filed to transform the restaurant space into a gallery and apartment. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― The owner of a shuttered Bank Street eatery is looking to transform the building into an art gallery and multi-bedroom apartment, according to plans submitted to the city.

    The Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday is slated to continue discussions on a special permit application filed by property owner Rod Cornish to convert his former Hot Rod Cafe at 114 Bank St. into a mixed-use space.

    The initial application was filed by 114 Bank Street, LLC in February, with Cornish listed as the member representing the corporation. Patrick Gallagher, a general contractor with Allied Group of CT LLC, is listed as the application agent.

    Cornish, who closed his popular restaurant in October, declined to comment on the pending application, which was recently modified to meet residential space restrictions laid out in city zoning regulations.

    The amended floor plan proposes dividing the building’s Bank Street-facing first-floor dining, kitchen and bar space into a 1,469-square-foot retail gallery. A 1,465-square-foot dwelling area on the same floor with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and kitchen and dining areas will have access only available from a rear building staircase facing South Water Street.

    The original project application called for a 1,095-square-foot gallery with 1,624 square feet set aside for the apartment. But that configuration is prohibited by central business district rules that disallow more than 50% of the gross area of any floor at street level to be designated for residential use.

    The building’s rooftop deck and basement are set aside for gallery storage, the application states.

    The commission declined to vote on the application last month after the 50% space subject was raised, according to draft meeting minutes and commission members.

    Commission member Ronna Stuller on Saturday said the issue was further complicated as the types of structures on that section of Bank Street have different levels when viewed from the South Water Street side when compared to Bank Street.

    “We wanted to give the applicant a chance to come up with modified floor plans,” she said. “Personally, I’d be prepared to be more flexible with the space considerations. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point the commission comes together to rethink the zone text about space restrictions.”

    Stuller said Gallagher did not request any exterior changes to the former restaurant.

    “It’s a little ironic we have an application to transform a former restaurant into a gallery, since we had a facade renovation request a couple months ago for someone looking to possibly turn a former gallery on State Street into a restaurant,” Stuller said, referring to the former Marquee Gallery. “I guess it all balances out.”

    The commission will continue its discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

    j.penney@theday.com

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