2017-03-09 / Around Town

Vacant Restaurant Site Has New Owners

By Bob Rulli

New ownership of a portion of the southern end of the Brick Market Place will hopefully breathe life into the vacant Barking Crab restaurant. The buildings, which also house Brooks Brothers, Cupcake Charlie’s and Martin’s Salon, among others, was sold last month for $4.8 million.

“Plans are already underway to convert the building with upper level spaces into upscale vacation options similar to what we have been developing and managing in Newport and Middletown,” said local developer Chris Bicho, president of The Landings Real Estate Group and one of the new owners. The other principal is Newport resident, Stephen Lewinstein.

The Vacation Newport Division of The Landings Real Estate Group provides luxury vacation and short-term rentals. Business condos currently located above the existing street level retail shops will be converted into individual accommodations.

The sale gives control of a majority of the land bordered by America’s Cup Avenue, Thames Street and West Marlborough Street to Lewinstein, with the exception of the Brick Market Place residential and retail condominiums, the city-owned Fire Dept. headquarters, and the historic Brick Market building which houses the Newport Historical Society’s museum and shop.

Lewinstein also owns the parking lot next to the fire station, the Shops at Long Wharf, and the Panera Bread site. Recently, he additionally acquired the southern section of the Long Wharf Mall.

Despite a seemingly desirable location, several businesses have failed at the restaurant site through the years, most recently Boat Yard. Before that, Barking Crab and Seafare’s American Cafe closed its doors.

Bicho suggested that the failures of those eateries were largely due to “operational issues,” pointing out that the only successful business at the location was Dave & Eddie’s, a national restaurant chain, years before. Bicho hopes that another regional or national restaurant operator will fill the space. There have been discussions with prospective tenants, but he said other options are available should there be no agreement with a restaurant owner.

The Landings Real Estate Group has been acquiring properties along the lower Thames Street corridor, and then renovating and converting them into upscale vacation rentals. The exterior is distinctive by its identical color paint schemes, copper gutters and architectural lighting fixtures, while the interior of the units are finished with gourmet kitchens, master suites with private baths, fine linens and spa-like toiletries.

“We offer a luxurious alternative to traditional hotels and the opportunity to vacation while having all the comforts of home,” Bicho said.

The area has existing zoning regulations that allow short-term rentals. The Landings' inventory in the Thames Street corridor will also soon include the historic former Firehouse Pizza building and a second new building in the former parking lot of that establishment.

The Landings Group president has gone on record previously in stressing that all of their short-term rental properties are compliant with all building and fire codes and that they pay the City of Newport all applicable lodging taxes.

In Middletown, the Landings group acquired the former Sandpiper Cottages and recently developed the East Island Reserve, on that site, a $6.2-million project that includes 27 extended-stay cottages and a 10-room hotel.

Work will begin on the renovations to the Brick Market Place purchase once the Newport Zoning Board of Review approves a special use permit. The project is expected to take one year to complete. In addition to interior renovations, the exterior will also feature new signage to help direct visitors to the parking lot at the southern end of the property and from a temporarily closed entrance off America’s Cup Avenue.

Bicho did not comment on the renovation’s cost.

Return to top