2017-02-09 / Opinion

Coffers Fill as Real Estate Soars


Location, location, location. It’s the go-to refrain for sellers of real estate, whether commercial or residential. But it can also have an important, trickle-down effect on the quality of life in a town where the real estate market is active.

Aquidneck Island is a popular place – not only to visit, but also to live. But then again those who live here know that. Recently commercial sales recorded in Newport and Middletown have exceeded $100,000,000. Yes, all those zeros are correct: one hundred million dollars.

On the residential side, so far this year in Newport and Middletown, six sales have broken the $1 million mark. One property, with a storied past and a spectacular ocean view, sold at the end of January for just over $11 million. While sales in Portsmouth have yet to do so, activity in the $400,000-$800,000 range appears strong. All of those figures indicate that Aquidneck Island is enjoying a strong economic surge coming out of the gate for 2017.

In case you haven’t combed the real estate transactions over the past few weeks (on the pages of this paper, you can find them on the next-to-last page), here is a quick recap: In Middletown the top seller, for $18,752,000, was the Grand Islander Center, a nursing and rehab center located on Green End Avenue. Elsewhere, the Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island changed hands this past week for $71,356,000. It is the fourth time the 264-room hotel, one of the largest hotel complexes on the island, will have a name change. It is now Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. First built as the Colonial Hilton in the late 1960s, it did turns as the Sheraton and then the Doubletree before becoming the Hyatt.

These sales, besides being good news for the island in general, also equate to many thousands of dollars for their respective municipality’s financial coffers. With each real estate transaction, a portion of the sale includes tax stamp revenue. The state, as always, has the upper hand, receiving 53 percent of the 4.6 tax stamp multiplier. So for the hotel sale with $328,327 paid in tax stamps, Newport’s portion (47 percent) was $154,313.

As we are now in the midst of winter, the city and town councils and the school committees are also in the midst of a wintry task: beginning budget planning for the 2017-18 fiscal year. In Newport, it looks as if there will be more than $150,000-plus for the planners to “play” with. If you want to have a voice in how your tax dollars are being spent, start watching for notices of the various budget workshops and meetings.

Monies from real estate sales may be hard to predict from year to year, but as municipalities typically face tight budgets, any kind of revenue boom is a bonus. Perhaps the extra income could be a welcome addition to the educational line items covering students’ ever-changing technology needs.

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