2017-12-21 / Opinion

From the Mayor's Office

A Year-End Message

To all Citizens of Newport:

It has been an honor to serve as Newport’s Mayor this past year, and I look forward to a very busy and productive 2018. As I look back on 2017, I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a community.

The year of 2017 saw the completion of several important and very visible improvements including the $6 million Broadway streetscape project, which has been met with rave reviews, and the completion of the $6.6 million upgrade to the Gateway Transportation Center, which included new bus shelters as well as roadway and drainage improvements. Also, thanks to a $3 million gift from Salve Regina University, the City was able to install a new state-of-the-art playing surface and upgrade the locker rooms at Freebody Park’s Toppa Field. In November, the “Newport Re-Uses” campaign to ban single-use plastic bags went into effect. In support of this initiative, a very generous donation was made to the City to buy and distribute 9,000 re-usable bags. A few hundred of these bags are still available, so please visit City Hall to pick one up.

In 2018, the City Council and City Administration will be focusing on a number of significant projects that got their start this past year. In March, the City received a $40 million commitment from the State of Rhode Island for the realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps. The objective of this project is to calm traffic, reconnect City streets, and free up over 40 acres of land for commercial development. This project is one of the most significant undertakings in Newport in the past 50 years. We have only one chance to get this right, so we will be soliciting input from all stakeholders and will thoroughly vet this project with the public. The first public meeting on this project will be scheduled in the first quarter of 2018.

Also, in the North End, there is a plan to develop a $1 million bike path which will run parallel with the Newport Secondary Rail Line from the Community College of Rhode Island to the Gateway Center.

We will be breaking ground in January for the $7 million renovation of the former Sheffield School for the “Innovate Newport’ project, which will transform the former elementary school into a technology business incubator. The objective is to provide a resource where the area’s entrepreneurs and innovators can interact and collaborate to create future economic drivers for the region. The project seeks to attract businesses focusing on underwater technology, marine science, cybersecurity and environmental resiliency while creating well-paying, year-round jobs for Newport and our neighboring communities. This exciting economic development initiative has received strong funding support from the federal government, the State of Rhode Island and the City.

The City Council has also committed to improving the City’s communications efforts and has awarded a $260,000 contract to design and develop a new, dynamic and easy to use website. We will also be working on $75 million in upgrades to our Wastewater Treatment Plant, negotiating the final agreement for the transfer of the Newport Naval Hospital facilities to the City, and pursuing an agreement with the National Sailing Hall of Fame for a move to Newport. The City will once again be hosting the Volvo Ocean Race’s only North American stopover at Fort Adams State Park on May 8–May 20.

In 2018, the City will also host over 3 million visitors, including nearly 70 cruise ship stopovers, see the construction of two new hotels on the waterfront, and watch the 40-room hotel proposal for Broadway work its way through the regulatory process. It is anticipated that many of these efforts will help us replace the $1 million in lost revenue and the loss of over 200 jobs as a result of the Newport Grand move to Tiverton.

In closing, I’d like to recognize the City Council for all that they do to make Newport the great City that it is and to thank our City Manager, Joseph Nicholson, and his extremely capable staff for their commitment to Newport.

Finally, the Council will continue to position Newport as the greatest City in America, and I assure you that I will never lose sight of the No. 1 priority in Newport, which is and always will be public safety.

Mayor Henry F. (Harry) Winthrop

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