The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service slammed redevelopment plans for the former Odette’s site in New Hope after reviewing the project last month at the request of the P.A. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), governmental officials confirmed Friday.
DCNR is working with developer Gateway to New Hope, LLC because DCNR owns the land surrounding the Odette’s structures.
Gateway to New Hope has sought since April 2014 to tear down the historic Odette’s tavern to make way for a boutique conference center, an action the U.S. National Park Service said in an October 15 letter represents a “serious threat to the character and integrity of the Delaware Canal.”
The Delaware Canal was identified as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, and it’s the job of the National Park Service to work with landmark owners to ensure their property’s continued historic status.
They say the Odette’s building “retains integrity and is not diminished by the subsequent 20th century additions.”
In fact, the National Park Service finds four significant elements of the planned project to be “problematic”:
- The proposed “total demolition and permanent loss of the 18th century historic inn,” which “appears to retain its full stone structure on all four sides”;
- The proposed new structure presents “a scale and mass that is wholly out of character with both the canal and the adjacent New Hope Historic District”;
- Construction of the luxury resort requires “substantial footings or foundations within a few feet of historic masonry canal walls” and will likely create “vibrations and changes in the ground water that could cause serious and irreparable damage to the historic structure of the canal itself,” and
- Restrictions that will be imposed on the canal tow path will “both physically and visually limit the visitor experience of [the] park.”
Concludes the Department of the Interior service, “The Odette’s site history, inclusive of the pre-canal operations, the 100 years of canal operations, and the subsequent history as both a Commonwealth park and a restaurant managed by Odette Myrtil, is far too important to have redirected by a use that will destroy that history and character.”
DCNR spokesperson Rick Dalton indicated that next steps in the process are not certain, but his department will “get back to the developer” with Federal concerns, and proceed with the project in an incremental manner that protects the Delaware Canal State Park. But that apparently may not be sufficient to spare the 1784 tavern from the bulldozer.
The Federal Government itself lacks the power to compel Gateway to New Hope (private owners of the historic tavern), the state, or New Hope Borough to follow or even seek their opinion going forward, acknowledged Bonnie Halda, chief of preservation assistance for the Northeast Region of the National Park Service.
“Our role is advisory; we do not have a regulatory role,” she explained.
Gateway to New Hope did not respond to a request for comment.