2013-12-27 / Opinion

Happy News Year

The intersession between Christmas and the new year can be a welcome respite amid the din of an otherwise hectic holiday season.

As such, it can be a particularly good time to indulge in a bit of quiet reflection.

So, as we head toward the new year, let’s take a moment to look forward to some of what Newport might be talking about over the next 12 months.

Starting at the ground up.

The Cliff Walk, battered by Hurricane Sandy, is currently undergoing repairs and should reopen in its entirety in time for the July 4th holiday. New bathrooms at Forty Steps are also in the cards, and let’s not underestimate the importance such a small convenience could have on what’s already touted as the state’s most popular tourist attraction. Could it be that with the right mix of weather and amenities we’ll look back on the summer of 2014 as a record breaker for the coastal trail? We’d like to think so.

By this time next year, Broadway will also have been remade, complete with a modern streetscape worthy of its history. With the improvements, we hope a new era of prosperity will come for the businesses who have made it what it is today.

Yes, there will be more construction. But it will be worth it. And when we look back at 2013, most will hardly remember the potholes, detours, and that one crumbled wall.

Of course, City Hall occupies a prominent space on Broadway. And while it may not feel like election season yet, this week next year, we’ll be on the verge of swearing in a new council and school committee, too. Let’s hope they’ll get along a bit better than they have in the past.

Several local representatives to the General Assembly will also be up for re-election. The 2012 campaign was disappointingly quiet on the state level, and we’re hoping for a more spirited contest in which candidates can be tested against one another and ideas debated in a meaningful way. Competition, after all, makes our democracy healthier and our communities stronger.

With what’s already shaping up to be a particularly active campaign in the race for governor, down-ticket campaigns should benefit from an engaged and intelligent electorate. However, if Rhode Island is ever going to shirk off its economic malaise, then it will need an infusion of new ideas. It can’t do that when seats go unopposed and incumbents unchallenged.

Speaking of challenges, up on Bellevue, Larry Ellison’s Beechwood Art Museum should soon begin rounding into form. With it, we expect renewed speculation about how Newport will fit into the software tycoon’s plans for the next America’s Cup.

The success of last year’s America’s Cup World Series matches should provide ample reason for Ellison to somehow incorporate Newport into the 35th Defense. Further insight into Team Oracle’s plans are expected to be revealed in the coming months.

A resolution is hopefully forthcoming in the Preservation Society’s divisive bid to construct a new welcome center for The Breakers, which has thrust longtime friends and colleagues on opposite sides of what has proven to be a rather controversial issue. Certainly, cooler heads can prevail.

Meanwhile, with an improving economy, look for Newport’s real estate market to continue to heat up – especially on the luxury end, where it never actually seemed to cool down.

Along the waterfront, Newport’s mooring fees will become an issue soon enough, as the city moves to collect additional revenue through one of its most coveted assets.

The quest to build a transient boater facility at the Ann Street Pier should also make headlines in the next year, and so may the Armory, as City Council members once again are expected to turn their eye to developing a long-range plan for the building.

The North End is also due for a discussion, with a master plan for the area slowly taking shape. Whatever the final plan, we hope that the city begins to at least ponder ways to offset the projected twilight at Newport Grand. The city’s effort to convert the Sheffield School into a hi-tech incubator could help. So, too, will the final disposition of the former Navy Hospital site. Finally, let’s not forget about the vacant school buildings that are now just ripe for development.

How the city approaches these projects will determine what Newport looks like over the next 10 to 20 years.

Yes, 2014 is shaping up to be a busy one, and there will be a lot more news to report.

Wishing you the best for a healthy and happy new year.

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