2013-12-12 / Around Town

Tennis Complex Gets First Approval

By Tom Shevlin

The International Tennis Hall of Fame scored its first significant victory in its effort to redevelop a major stretch of Memorial Boulevard into a state-of-the-art sporting complex.

The plan, which was first unveiled in August, calls for the complete re-imagining of the Hall of Fame’s holdings on Memorial Boulevard, including the demolition of several buildings, the relocation of another, and the construction of a new indoor tennis facility and meeting space that McKim, Mead and White architecture that fronts Bellevue Avenue.

An appearance before the Newport Planning Board on Monday, Dec. 9 was the first step in bringing the project from concept to reality.

Board members unanimously approved the requests that were before them, namely, demolition permits for a series of buildings at 1 Hayden Ct. and at 11, 17, 23, and 27 Memorial Blvd. One of the buildings – a Victorian structure, which is not considered historically contributing – is slated to be relocated to a parcel of land across the way on Red Cross Avenue. The rest will be razed, with their lots combined to create a single two-acre parcel that Hall of Fame officials say will be integrated seamlessly into the existing seven-acre campus.

Representing the Hall of Fame was Daniel Paquette, a veteran construction manager who said that once ground is broken, it should take roughly two years to see the project completed.

Paquette has been working on the project since 2011, and has been responsible for the Hall of Fame’s real estate acquisition strategy and now the pre-construction phase.

He said that they goal moving forward is to create an end product that will not only enhance the visitor experience inside the Hall of Fame complex, but also improve the streetscape along what is one of Newport’s busiest roadways.

Funding for the roughly $15.7 million project is being secured through an ambitious capital campaign launched earlier this year. Hall of Fame officials have previously reported that over $12 million of that total has already been raised.

As part of the campaign, the Hall of Fame has already had Hayden Court abandoned by the city and hired renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern to lead the design process.

Approvals still need to be secured from the city’s Zoning Board of Review and, while the property falls outside the bounds of Newport’s historic district, the project is nevertheless expected to be offered up for design review by members of the Historic District Commission later this month.

If ultimately approved, the project will represent one of the most significant streetscape improvements that Newport has seen in years.

It will also provide additional improvements to existing programming, most notably a $3 million upgrade to the facility’s museum offerings. Other plans include the addition of three new indoor tennis courts and three new indoor/ outdoor hard courts for year-round use, upgrades to the stadium seating at Bill Talbert Center Court, and the potential for a new squash facility consisting of three singles and two doubles courts.

In announcing the project last summer, outgoing CEO Mark Stenning described the project as an opportunity to not only breathe new life into the Hall of Fame, but also the neighborhood at large.

"The projects outlined in this campaign will significantly improve our programs, both in terms of cultural and recreational programming for the community and our museum's efforts to be the leader in preserving the history of the sport and engaging fans," he said at the time. “We see this as an opportunity to significantly grow and improve the Hall of Fame and its programs, as well as an opportunity to revitalize the nearby section of Memorial Boulevard in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and economic development."

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