BY NYA WYNN
Construction is moving quickly for the controversial seven-story hotel building being erected by Lang Development Group on East Main Street with noticeable changes happening to the historic Green Mansion such as the removal of the porch and roofline cornice.
The building will combine the former Abbott’s Shoe Company building with the historic Green Mansion at 94 E. Main Street. The plan includes 104 hotel rooms, office spaces, an underground parking lot and an additional building with 48 residential unit spaces.
The City of Newark approved the plans for the new building with the condition that the serpentine facade of the building be preserved. This serpentine stone is a unique, green stone that was used in buildings throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in the Delaware and Pennsylvania area. Due to this historical significance, the Green Mansion is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s important to preserve the building’s facade,” Michael Emmons, vice president of Preservation Delaware Inc., said. “It’s Newark’s only surviving Italianate style building which survives to tell the story of historic Newark, so it is very important to preserve.”
“The Green Mansion is also the same size and scale of a lot of those 18th-century buildings that used to lie in Newark, several of them have been lost, but it retains the rhythm and scale of what downtown Newark used to look like historically,” Emmons went on to say.
According to Emmons, the National Register of Historic Places does not protect the Green Mansion from private development, which has led to concerns about its preservation.
“Changing character-defining features such as the height, porches or the cornice at the roofline does not preserve the building’s intended facade,” Emmons said.
Others have faith that the Green Mansion will be honored and thoroughly preserved. Newark City Councilman Jason Lawhorn has no doubt that Lang will be able to preserve the history of the Green Mansion.
“The developer has a history in Newark of preserving historical buildings,” Lawhorn said.
He cites Lang’s previous work on buildings such as Timothy’s of Newark and the Vulcanized Fiber plant.
“They did a great job at maintaining a lot of the historical preservation while also adding office spaces and restaurants,” Lawhorn said.
Lawhorn also mentioned that due to the controversy around the preservation of the Green Mansion, he was encouraged by the residents who spoke out against the height of the building to draft a new zoning law limiting the height of buildings on Main Street.
“We’re finally going to have code changes brought up that will make building heights more standardized on Main Street,” Lawhorn said.
“The Green Mansion sits at such a key intersection and is so visible and iconic in downtown Newark that it’s especially important to preserve it as a marker of Newark’s past,” Emmons said.