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Developer Plans Cafe at Lebanon Auto Garage Site

  • Greg Giguere, owner of Roy's Auto, sits as his desk while mechanic Seayra Gilman changes tires on Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Lebanon, N.H. Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson has plans to purchase Roy's Auto and turn it into a coffee shop. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Greg Giguere, owner of Roy's Auto, takes a call at his desk on Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Lebanon, N.H. Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson has plans to purchase Roy's Auto and turn it into a coffee shop. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Roy's Auto on Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Lebanon, N.H. Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson has plans to purchase Roy's Auto and turn it into a coffee shop.(Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Greg Giguere, owner of Roy's Auto, takes a call at his desk on Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Lebanon, N.H. Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson has plans to purchase Roy's Auto and turn it into a coffee shop. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mechanic Seayra Gilman, of Sharon, Vt., changes car tires at Roy's Auto on Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Lebanon, N.H. Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson has plans to purchase Roy's Auto and turn it into a coffee shop. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lebanon — The whirr and mechanical sound of power tools and air compressors at Roy’s Auto Service in downtown Lebanon may soon be replaced by the softer noises emitted by an espresso machine and conversation.

Situated at a key corner in the Colburn Park Historic District — next door to Soldiers Home Building and just down the block from City Hall — the three-bay garage may become Lucky’s Coffee Garage if developer Michael Davidson’s proposal to purchase the business goes forward. Davidson also recently has revealed plans to develop a nearby property, the former public works facility on Spencer Street, into a cluster of commercial and residential buildings.

As with the Spencer Street development, Davidson said his plans for Roy’s fall in line with the visioning study commissioned to guide development in downtown.

The cafe will offer a “vibrant new business” offering coffee, baked goods and spirits, Davidson wrote in a letter to city officials. He hopes to open the cafe this summer.

The proposal comes a year after the Lebanon Housing Authority began exploring the possibility of using the property to develop a four-story, 30-unit apartment building for low-income housing. It withdrew the proposal in the face of opposition from the Planning Board and City Council.

Davidson’s proposal will go before the city’s Heritage Committee and Planning Board next month for approval.

According to documents filed with the city, Davidson’s plan includes a renovation of the building’s interior and addition of a back door. Plans also show the coffee shop with an outdoor seating space that looks out to North Park Street, and 16 parking spaces for customers.

Davidson’s company, Ledgeworks, declined to comment on the project on Thursday, as did Deb Shinnlinger, who would run the cafe.

People can expect a small, intimate space that’s integrated with the street, said James Wasser, a principal at the White River Junction-based Studio Nexus Architects and Planners.

“One of these images that’s really kind of big in Mike’s mind are the Edward Hopper paintings,” he said referring to the famous Nighthawks painting. “Roy’s fits in really, really nicely with that kind of image.”

Shinnlinger also will aid in the design. She has years of experience running and managing restaurants, owning one in Eugene, Ore., before moving to Canaan. She also worked at the downtown Salt hill Pub in the mid-2000s.

Last year, Shinnlinger was chosen to run a community market proposed for the town of Canaan. Initial plans called for farmers, artisans and a coffee shop to form a cooperative and do business out of a building on Route 4.

Although the plan didn’t come to fruition, those involved in the project praised Shinnlinger for her efforts.

“She had a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of initiative,” said Canaan Town Administrator Mike Samson, who helped spearhead the market project. .

Dale Barney of Barney Insurance is a partial owner of the building that was sought for the market. He remembered Shinnlinger as someone with good business sense with detailed knowledge of the restaurants.

“I think she’s going to do well. She has great ideas and like I said, she has an acute sense of what’s going to work and what’s not going to work,” he said.

Roy’s Auto Service, built around 1950, was on the verge of being sold to the Lebanon Housing Authority when the development sparked opposition from public officials who expressed concern about the lack of parking in the area and the prospect of the new building towering over its neighbors.

Ultimately, the housing authority withdrew its application for the project, and Roy’s has continued to see customers.

Owner Gregory Giguere declined to comment on the upcoming sale of the property on Thursday, and directed questions to co-owner Cathy Giguere. A message left for her on Thursday wasn’t returned. The building and ¼-acre property is valued at $293,100, according to city assessing records.

City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, who owns the nearby Lebanon Diner, said on Thursday that she helped connect Davidson and Shinnlinger on the project.

Liot Hill said she knew Shinnlinger when the latter worked at Salt hill Pub. She also worked with Davidson after he purchased the former Lebanon Junior High School.

When she heard Shinnlinger was hoping to open a coffee shop, Liot Hill said, she quickly thought of Roy’s.

“I think it’s great. I think the downtown visioning study shows people want a downtown that’s even more vibrant,” Liot Hill said. “They want it to be a place that has things going on.”

The Lebanon Planning Board is scheduled to discuss Davidson’s proposal at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 8. The Lebanon Heritage Commission will meet two days later to review the project at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.