The tagline "Let Starbucks be your front porch this summer" has taken on another meeting as the company plans to move into a new building that will replace a 19th-century Victorian with a wraparound porch.
Developer Joe Cleary, who owns the house in Merrimack, N.H., most recently known as Madden's Restaurant, plans to tear it down later this year to make way for a 1,800-square-foot Starbucks. Cleary, who did not return phone calls to Preservation Online, plans to build a replica of the town's train depot to fit into the neighborhood rather than reusing the house.
"It is functionally obsolete, not to mention that it is extremely damaged inside," Cleary told the Boston Globe.
But the deputy state historic preservation officer, Linda Wilson, says the house is in "good condition," and points to other coffee shops in New Hampshire that have moved into old houses.
"Dunkin Donuts has moved into older houses that have been converted," Wilson says. "It seems like a wonderful opportunity for people to be creative, to think out of the box, and to keep something that locally is recognized as an important part of community memory without sacrificing economic use. It really could be a win-win."
With Wilson's help, Merrimack officials are planning to form a neighborhood conservation district so that the town gets a say in future development.
"It’s not simply about front porches and roofs and shutters," Wilson says of conservation districts. "It takes it out of the physical realm of appropriate design and materials and involves citizens in a much more deeper and thoughtful way about the future of their community."
It's too late to save Madden's, but the new law, which two other New Hampshire towns are considering, is a step forward, says Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.
"This could be a great trigger for a really positive preservation program," Goodman says.