When you think of Martha’s Vineyard, you think of a quaint Island loaded with character — which it certainly is — and a vacation destination for thousands each year. However, this place can be a bit of a mystery with its six towns and varying topography. For many people who arrive on the boat, they have lots of questions about where to go, and what to do to make their visit here, whether it’s a day or a month, their most memorable.
One of the first places they visit to find out what to do and what the Vineyard is about, is the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. The staff there is in the know and always has plenty of helpful suggestions to help you enjoy Martha’s Vineyard.
Time For a Change
Though the staff is great at welcoming people to the Island, the Chamber building itself was perhaps not the best representation of the Island. Since 2006, when Director Nancy Gardella was interviewing for her position of Director, she had hopes of enhancing the appearance of the Chamber building. After all, the building is in the Historic District of Vineyard Haven, and its outward appearance was certainly not representative of that.
Also, the building itself was not very friendly for visitors. The front door was not able to be used, but rather the side entrances were used, which oftern confused visitors who thought the Chamber was closed. As Nancy sad, it was a sad little building, and it was time to make it more welcoming for visitors, and something that members would be proud of.
In January 2012, the Chamber was in the position to start a renovation. Soon the Chamber building would be transformed into something that the whole community could be proud of. The Chamber wanted a home that would stand tall on an Island rich with history and beauty. Though their budget was not big, Nancy was hopeful. Being supportive of local businesses and members of course, Nancy and the Chamber Board reached out to local architects.
Nancy first reached out to Hutker Architects, a well known firm located right down the street in the Tisbury Market Place. Actually, she called my husband Matt, who was the only person she really knew who worked in the architectural profession.
There was an immediate interest in the project, but sadly my hubby was not able to get involved because of other projects keeping him busy. Upon hearing the hopes and vision for this integral part of the Vineyard community, Mark Hutker, Principal and Founder of Hutker Architects, thought that it was an important project to be a part of.
The scope of the project for Hutker would include the exterior and the first floor, both of which needed a lot of work. Knowing that the budget for the project was small and the vision big, Hutker Architects decided it was going to take on the project, and that their involvement would be a gift to the community. A generous contribution on their part which helped make the project a reality.
Phil Regan, a Principal of Hutker, and Nelson Giannkopoulos, a Designer, were assigned to the project. Nancy said that both were enthusiastic about the project because of the positive impact it would have on the community. She also told me that Phil, who grew up on the Island, was particularly fond of the project and would even stop by with impromtu sketch ideas on napkins. When asking Nelson about how they came up with a plan for the Chamber building, he said that the design intent was for the Chamber building to gain some Island cottage character that would work with the maritime heritage of the town.
Once the design was agreed upon by the Chamber Building Committee, it was full steam ahead, since the project needed to be completed by this past Memorial Day weekend. On the exterior, this included the addition of a porch, a re-design of the entry ways, a neutral color palette, and shutters. Through clever design and a variance from the Architectural Access Board, the team was able to keep the handicap accessible ramp on the side, so the front of the building could remain simple.
For the inside, there was a complete re-thinking of how to make the space functional, and the new entrance ways and the re-design have provided just that. The staff even has a small kitchen to use for lunch breaks. The new layout is welcoming as well as functional. The new display racks on the walls for member’s business information are a lot more user friendly.
The open space with a neutral color palette is a welcoming environment for visitors and Chamber members alike. A really cool new feature – there is a screen on the wall that has up-to-the minute room availability for hotels on the Island. Of course, there is WI-FI as well – the Chamber is now in the 21st century.
So, the architect was on board, and then came another challenging task, finding a builder. The Hutker team helped Nancy with this process, since it can be a challenging one to navigate through. They chose Adam T. Hayes and his team, and could not have been more happy. Adam agreed to their aggressive timeline for starting in January and wrapping up for Memorial Day weekend.
Adam also understood that there was a small budget to accomplish a lot. He worked hard to help the Chamber save money in many ways, including the use of green materials that would not only help the building be energy efficient but would also offer tax incentives.
Adam is well known as a contractor who is dependable and for making deadlines. Amazing that he was able to have the Chamber ready so quickly! He also is known for his preference for using green building materials, and his keen awareness of the environment, and desire to sustain the natural beauty of the Island.
All of these, he brought to the table when working on the Chamber building. Nancy said that he and his team were fantastic to work with, and contributed a lot to the project. I do have to say, that I really like the color that was selected for the siding. I wouldn’t mind it on my home. With the addition of a new roof, new siding, new windows, the porch, and some much needed insulation, Adam and his team helped bring the Chamber’s hopes of a beautiful place to work in to fruition.
A Proud Part of the Vineyard Community
The newly renovated Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce building is now one that the whole Island can be proud of. It is no longer a sad, misplaced building. It can now take its place as a member of the Historic District of Vineyard Haven as a representation of the beauty of the Vineyard. It is truly a welcoming space for our visitors.
If you have not been by in a while, perhaps it’s time to stop in, and say hi, even if you’re not a Chamber member. There is a great group of people working there, working hard to help Island businesses and bring people to the Island.