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New restaurant, shops and apartment views at 931 Ocean Blvd. at North Beach

HAMPTON – The burned-out building at the corner of High Street and Ocean Boulevard could be replaced with a new five-story building with retail space, a restaurant and oceanfront residential units.

The one-story building at 931 Ocean Blvd. once housed Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co., North Beach Bar and Grill and the Secret Spot, which served smoothies, snacks and acai bowls. A fire in August 2022 destroyed the building and now the owners, Barn Realty Inc., have applied to the city zoning board to build a new building on the oceanfront lot.

The project would include a total of four retail spaces as well as a restaurant, according to plans filed with the city building department. It would contain six residential units with decks.

Barn Realty is looking for five options, three of which relate to parking and the other two to height and density. The proposed building is 7 feet and 6 inches taller than the permitted 50 feet height. Units in the Business Seasonal Zone must be a minimum of 2,500 square feet, while the application proposes 2,021.

The zone requires two parking spaces per residential unit and some parking spaces for retail and catering establishments. The project has 1.5 spaces for each residential unit and no space for the other uses. The home is located near the city’s municipal parking lot and the New Hampshire State Parks parking lot.

The project is expected to go before the Zoning Board on June 20. Given the land’s previous use for a restaurant and retail, the owners argued in their application that granting the variances would result in the most appropriate use of the land.

“The removal of the existing charred facilities on the site and the construction of a new state-of-the-art building will enhance the value of the surrounding properties,” according to Barn Realty’s application.

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A new five-story building would replace the existing structure

The building that burned is described in Barn Realty’s filing as a one-story commercial condominium building built around 1970, according to the filing. The owners say it is a roughly triangular lot with no driveway or parking spaces. The filing describes the property as an “ugly older single-story multi-tenant building that is in poor condition.”

The new structure will include three commercial spaces on the first floor, while the second floor will contain another retail space and a restaurant, according to Zoning Board documents. There will be two residential units with three bedrooms on the third, fourth and fifth floors.

The filing states that the project will not harm the views of surrounding properties. It says three developments have already blocked views of the Atlantic Ocean from existing properties: Ocean Crest Condominiums, Bailey’s Beach Resort and the 935 Ocean inn. The filing states that the views of all other properties in the area will not be obstructed by the new construction.

They said the height of the building makes it less of a nuisance.

“The fact that the subject building will be a five-story building, while being taller than a three- or four-story building, is no longer likely to impede ocean views for these nearby developments,” the submission states.

The construction would include a newly paved access road from High Street providing access to the rear of the building for parking, delivery and communal areas. The current setup, which lacks a driveway or parking space on site, results in vans driving and parking in areas located on adjacent properties. The new construction would eliminate that unauthorized use and “increase the desirability” of the adjacent properties.

“It is concluded that the proposed use of the subject for a five-story mixed-use building would do nothing other than improve the neighborhood of the subject,” the application states, “and result in a net positive effect on surrounding developments. “

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Former tenants are eager to return to 931 Ocean Blvd.

Some of those who ran businesses in the destroyed building say they hope to return as tenants if the project is approved and construction takes place. Cinnamon Rainbows and the Secret Spot both work in spaces that they consider temporary since the fire.

Jon Gozzo, owner of the Secret Spot, will reopen his acai and smoothie shop, 250 feet west of the building, at the end of June. He said he may have to keep both stores open if he gets the chance to return to that store, but he believes this is Secret Spot’s true home.

“If they put retail downstairs and there’s room for me, I’d like to be on that corner again,” Gozzo said.

Heather Day, who co-owns Cinnamon Rainbows with longtime Hampton surfer Dave Cropper, said they have enjoyed their space on Route 1 in North Hampton since moving there last year. However, rentals and lessons are more difficult far from the beach. She said they plan to come back to the beach when a new building with shops comes up.

Day said community members and customers are also looking forward to the burned building being replaced as a benefit to the neighborhood.

“We belong on the beach, and I know our customers and people in town are very excited about the eyesore,” Day said. “Everyone is chewing.”

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