2015-01-08 / Around Town

Peregrine to be Patient in Newport

By Tom Walsh

You could say that Colin Kane has been around, has seen the world.

And now, the former Navy flag lieutenant who served on a guided missile destroyer has set his eyes on Newport.

Last fall, Kane’s development company, Peregrine Group LLC of Rumford, R.I. and Boston, Mass., paid more than $12 million for nine parcels of land—3.5 acres of Newport harborfront land formerly owned by the Newport Yachting Center. This is the same development firm that oversaw the seven year reconstruction of Ocean House, the 1868 grand Victorian five-star hotel in tony Watch Hill, Westerly, overlooking Block Island Sound. That project’s value: $140 million.

But despite chatter that Kane and Peregrine had similar designs for their Newport real estate holdings, Kane maintains that such talk is very premature.

“I would say that over the next three years, as our plans get more explicit, we will share those plans with our neighbors,” Kane said. “I’m not sure that a hotel is in the future. But I also won’t rule anything out. But if we do eventually propose something, we would first meet with the neighbors. That’s just a matter of good business.”

Kane, 48 years old and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate with master’s degrees from Georgetown University and Harvard Business School, said he has come to appreciate Newport’s myriad attributes. “It’s beautiful. I just want to improve that,” he said. “Newport is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s a great city. It has its quirks. But the people of Newport really care about it.”

And so does he, Kane maintained. Peregrine will move slowly, deliberately, he indicated, with future projects. The first thing that will happen, he said, will be to clean up these properties.

Peregrine is no stranger to these types of challenges. Its Rumford, East Providence, headquarters was once a mill complex that eventually became a brownfield facility that Peregrine turned into a mixeduse campus of 89 residential apartments, 60,000 square feet of commercial office space and 7,800 square feet of retail space. The latter includes 7-Stars, a popular bakery coffee shop that operates on Hope Street in Providence as well.

The company’s 13-year resume includes projects in Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well as Durham, N.C., Napa, Calif., Mexico City, and Mayaguana Island in the Bahamas.

Three parking lots, with space for 250 vehicles, now account for a considerable amount of Peregrine’s 3.5 acres on Newport Harbor. That will not change, at least for now. “We’re basically taking the same parking operation and we hope to improve it over time,” Kane said. “Parking is important. There is no public parking right now outside of the business center.” He said motorists will still have to pay to park there.

Kane said the plan is to accomplish that and at the same time improve the overall appearance of the land that runs roughly from the “wave” sculpture at the end of America’s Cup Avenue to Bannister’s Wharf.

“Right now it’s not very attractive. It’s just parking. It’s not much to look at,” Kane said. “So as we begin to think about how we knit these areas together, we wonder, how do you draw people to the water? They need a reason to go.” For example, he added, “Bannister’s and Bowen’s wharves draw you to those places. I want to make our property more attractive and alluring.”

What exactly has Peregrine acquired besides parking lots on these nine parcels? The land also includes:

. The Newport Yachting Center Marina. Kane said he has no plans to change the name.

. The Mooring, a popular yearround seafood restaurant.

. The Smoke House, a summer barbecue-style eatery.

. The Sunset Terrace, a tent structure used largely for commercial wharf events and corporate functions.

. Old Port Launch Service that takes boaters to their vessels in the harbor and back.

Kane, who lives in Wickford, said the existing businesses were acquired in a separate financial transaction. He said he was “not at liberty to disclose” what Peregrine paid for them.

“The good news,” Kane said, “is that all of the employees of these businesses have agreed to join our team.”

“Nothing has changed here,” said Matt Gineo of Old Port Launch Service. Gineo said that after meeting with Peregrine, “We’re still operating exactly as we have been. There was no change in the rent and we still have nine years left on the lease. They said they like us being here.”

Kane said Peregrine is positioned to move forward deliberately in Newport.

“We’re capitalized and patient,” he said.

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