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Former Church Building is Approved as Elizabeth Dow’s New Studio

Posted on 29 February 2012

After holding her breath for a year-and-a-half, Elizabeth Dow can now breathe a little easier. On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board signed off on her plans to convert the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church on Madison Street into her the new home for her wall covering studio, retail space and internship program.

According to Dow’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, this was the last approval Dow needed to apply for her building permit.

“I can’t believe it,” said Dow on Wednesday morning. “I am in shock. The reality of this probably will not hit me until a year from now.”

For Dow, it has been a long and sometimes rocky road to secure approval for her plans.

Dow, who owns Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, a textile and wall covering design studio and retail business, has proposed to convert the former church into a shop for her business. The converted building would also include 2,988 square feet of retail home furnishings and décor display area, office space and an accessory apartment for students accepted into her internship program.

In addition to approving the conversion of the church into her place of business, on Tuesday night the planning board, acting as the village’s accessory apartment review board, also granted Dow permission to have an accessory apartment in the building.

The exterior of the historic church will largely remain the same, although stained glass windows have been removed and will be replaced with large clear glass windows. Aluminum siding will also be taken down and the church will be re-clad in wood, which will not be painted, but allowed to age into a natural grey patina.

On Wednesday morning, Dow said she hoped the project would be completed in no later than nine months.

“I am very excited, obviously,” she said. “It has been a long journey. I had no idea how long this journey was going to be and the steps I would have to take, and quite honestly, I am glad I didn’t. Ignorance is bliss.”

Dow said she was grateful for the village boards’ support, as well as the reception she has received about her plans from the greater Sag Harbor community.

“When I fell in love with this building and decided to move ahead with plans for my business, as much as I loved Sag Harbor, I never really dreamed of the kind of reception and warmth I would receive from the community, and how enthusiastic everyone has been,” she said. “Honestly, I think it was what kept me focused and in the game to make this happen — that kind of support from the community.”

“This was a labor of love for me,” she continued. “I wasn’t coming into the village as a developer looking to change a property and develop it to suit my needs to make money. This was a business commitment, but more so I am personally committed to this building, and I think the community came to understand that.”

Sen Looks at Expansion Plans

In other planning board news, builder and designer Dean Golden announced that Sen Restaurant will seek to expand its kitchen and two apartments on the second and third floors of the building by 1,500 square-feet.

When Golden first approached the planning board he originally proposed a 550 square-foot addition on the rear of the building to allow for the expansion of the kitchen and the reconfiguration of the bar area and bathrooms.

Even with the bigger plan to expand the apartments included in the new concept, Golden noted the number of seats in the restaurant as well as the number of bedrooms in the apartments will not change and therefore the restaurant should not need to come up with any new parking as a result of the expansion.

Planning board member and acting chairman Greg Ferraris suggested that Golden meet with village attorney Denise Schoen to ensure the plans met village code before filing a formal application. Board member Jack Tagliasacchi added that he believes that plans to expand the kitchen on the first floor and expand one of the apartments above it may be illegal under the New York State fire code.

Tutto il Giorno was also granted the right to construct its outdoor pizza oven without any further review. The planning board waived site plan approval after it became clear the neighbor’s were comfortable with the project at a recent hearing in front of the village’s zoning board of appeals.

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