One of Edgartown’s most historic waterfront blocks is being reimagined as a unified hotel campus by the new owners of the Kelley House, who have been quietly seeking community support for the project.

New hotel owners are Blue Flag Partners, a Boston real estate group. — Ray Ewing

Plans by Blue Flag Partners, a Boston-based real estate firm, include adding two stories to the single-story section of the Kelley House, relocating the Wave Bar pool away from Dock street and redesigning the entry to the long hotel building on Kelley Street known as the Garden House.

Originally built as a tavern in 1742, the Kelley House itself would be returned to use as an inn with 17 guest rooms. It currently houses hotel staff, who would be moved to housing off-site, under the plan. The Newes from America, a popular local pub, would remain in its current location. A small retail building at the corner of Kelley street and Dock street would also be expanded as to accommodate another restaurant, and minor renovations and extensive landscaping would be undertaken to create a cohesive, walkable campus, connecting other buildings that are part of the hotel’s holdings, including Mizzen Top, once a whaling captain’s home with a widow’s walk.

“The work is key to reinvigorating the historic Kelley House Hotel as a prime hospitality experience in the heart of historic Edgartown,” according to a letter to the town historic district commission, which approved the renovation plan in concept in August. In minutes of that meeting, members of the historic district commission thanked the owners for a “thoughtful and thorough submission.”

The plan is under review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI) and still at a preliminary stage. No public hearing date has been set.

Preliminary plans call for a total of 75 hotel rooms and 34 parking spaces (a decrease from the current 45 spaces) according to MVC documents. Restaurant seating would increase from 175 to 300. Details on wastewater generation have not been provided yet.

The owners hope to begin work on the project this winter and complete it by the spring of 2023, according to documents filed with the MVC.

Blue Flag Partners, which has developed several hotels on Nantucket, acquired the Kelley House and surrounding properties in October 2020 for $19.64 million and now owns most of the block bordered by Dock, North Water, Daggett and Kelley streets. Several of the buildings are now being used to house guests of the hotel.

The two buildings on the block not owned by Blue Flag are the Old Sculpin Art Gallery, which is owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, and The Anchors, the one-time home of Captain Samuel B. Norton that has long served as the town senior center.

Owners of the hotel have been in discussions with town officials since early in the year on designs for the hotel campus.

On Tuesday, the Edgartown Council on Aging held a special board meeting to discuss the project with Blue Flag’s principals, Jason Brown and Brad Guidi, focusing specifically on the impact on parking for council staff and seniors who use the facility.

Expansion would reconfigure historic block in downtown Edgartown. — Ray Ewing

Currently, The Anchors parking lot sits on land owned by the hotel. The hotel’s initial plan would reduce the size of that lot, but open up parking elsewhere, although council on aging representatives said its members would prefer no change.

“You know, we’ve been trying to navigate through the Vineyard and making sure we talk to all the appropriate parties,” said Mr. Guidi. “Really what we’re what we want to do here is figure out a partnership with you all and a solution that works for everybody.”

After an hour’s discussion, hotel owners agreed to do a walk-through of the site with council on aging members to try to resolve the parking issue.

John Dropick, a member of the council board of directors, raised an additional issue, noting that an area proposed for additional parking sits directly across from Memorial Wharf, now undergoing a $4 million reconstruction to raise it by 18 inches.

“Yesterday, in the afternoon tide, there was six inches of water on the Edgartown side that people are walking through over their shoes to get onto the ferry to go to Chappaquiddick. That’s very common at this point,” Mr. Dropick said.

“The parking spaces may disappear, you know. That’s just because of the sea level rise,” he continued. “So that’s something that we need to take into account — long range, but it’s closer than we think because we’re dealing with it right now.”

The hotel has a long and colorful history, dating to the 1700s when it was operated as a tavern and hostelry. It became the Kelley House in the late 1800s under the ownership of Elizabeth Kelley and her husband Bill Kelley. After Bill Kelley’s death, Elizabeth ran the inn by herself, famously housing prominent judges and attorneys, among others.

Elizabeth Kelley died in 1935 and left the hotel in her estate to her nephew Richard L. Colter, who was the proprietor of the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven. He changed the name to the

Great Harbor Inn, and continued to house guests in an era when people took long stays in hotels for their summer vacations.

Original tavern dates to 1742. — Ray Ewing

In 1944 the sea swept across the property in a summer hurricane, causing significant damage.

And despite its history as a tavern, the sale of alcohol apparently did not become part of the inn until late in the 20th century. On the 200th anniversary of the inn, a prickly Mr. Colter took issue with the Christian Science Monitor after it reported that the inn served beer.

“One does not look for beer at the Kelley House,” Mr. Colter wrote in an undated letter in the Gazette. “Our guests come to us for the best blueberry pie of summer, for clam chowder which has been famous through many decades, and for lobsters served as only Vineyard cooks know how, but never for beer or any other liquor. Our guests like swimming and yachting, fishing and bicycling, or reading on the lawn. They like the sea air and sound sleep. This is a place of sanctuary.”

In 1972 Mr. Colter sold the inn to Edgartown businessman Robert J. Carroll and his business partner, the former state Sen. Allan Jones. They changed the name back to the Kelley House and built the long addition known today as the Garden House.

Mr. Carroll battled the town more than once in the 1980s over proposed changes to the hotel, including a pool, a cocktail lounge and an exercise center.

In 1986 he sold his interests to business partners. At the time the hotel was under an umbrella company that included the Harbor View Hotel. In the 1990s the properties were split during a bankruptcy. The Kelley House subsequently changed hands a number of times before coming under ownership by Blue Flag last year.