2017-04-20 / Opinion

The Season of Change


A harbinger of spring, Newport’s daffodil population (a half-million and growing) has arrived to blanket the city’s flower beds, roadsides and lawns just in time for Daffodil Days.

Everywhere you turn these days, the Aquidneck Island landscape is dotted, not only with daffodils, but backhoes and construction trucks. We seem to be a community enveloped by change.

Some of the transformations are well underway. A $6.5 million upgrade at the Gateway Center on America’s Cup Avenue is reportedly on track for completion by the end of July. The much-needed work will include the installation of rain gardens (incorporating indigenous vegetation), a new drop-off and pick-up station for taxis and automobiles, new bike lanes and racks and a redesigned drainage system.

The Preservation Society of Newport County announced on April 7 that Behan Bros., Inc. of Middletown would soon begin work on the long-contested Breakers welcome center. On Thames Street, the International Yacht Restoration School Founder's Hall is encased in Tyvek. A few blocks further down, progress on the boutique hotel at Wellington and Thames streets is well underway and on track.

In Middletown, the $12 million reconfiguration of Two-mile Corner is a year into its projected 18-month timeline. When done, the RIDOT will have repaved the area, installed new traffic signals, ADA-compliant sidewalks, and drainage upgrades that will better handle stormwater runoff. Also in Middletown, construction began on March 30 on the Cumberland Farms expansion on Aquidneck Avenue. Two neighboring houses have been torn down to make room.

“Too bad, everything goes eventually,” wrote one reader on our Facebook page.

More change: The Atlantic Resort, up the hill from Cumby's on the site of the former Sea View Inn, is nearing completion. Out by the two Middletown beaches, the road fork at Third Beach will soon be closed for construction, and at Second Beach the Surfers End parking lot is being resurfaced, both projects to improve water drainage.

And some projects, such as the crater-like pothole on Broadway at the top of Marlborough Street, seem to have gotten caught like a deer in the city’s headlights. But, alas, on the day these thoughts were penned, the illustrious workers in their bright yellow vests from Cardi Construction and RIDOT were on-site, filling in the hole.

And while there is no direct correlation it bears mention that we are also witnessing change of a different stripe which has the potential, locally, to be historic. The recent departure of State Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed to take over the Hospital Association of Rhode Island has unexpectedly irrigated the local political flowerbed. To date, five local politicians (Republican Mike Smith, and Democrats David Allard, Dawn Euer, Newport City Councilor John Florez and School Committee Chair David Hanos) have declared their interest in filling Paiva Weed’s political shoes. Predictably, there will be a flurry of activity between now and the July 18 primary and beyond, as candidates and voters head for the August 22 election.

Spring is in the air. And whether full of flowers, politicians or potholes, things are bound to get interesting.

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