2018-02-15 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Stop Selling My Newport

To the Editor:

In April 2010, the City of Newport took great pride in announcing the Armory Wharf Project… “expected to play an important role in strengthening the City’s economy and revitalizing a valuable landmark for residents and visitors alike.” This was a significant effort on the part of the City of Newport, the Rhode Island Department of Economic Development, Newport Waterfront Commission and residents.

So what has happened? Have the best efforts of past politicians and volunteers been thrown away once again? Have we no long-term plan for protecting the few remaining community properties? While the Armory does face material challenges, is it a property that gets to be abandoned and sold in a secret deal, without first having a public request for ideas to save and to improve the site? Would that then be followed by open process to establish the very best disposition?

We are told the current deal is being made behind closed doors to “protect the negotiations,” but whose interest is being served? I for one don’t feel that it’s in the community’s best interest. But we haven’t yet been given that chance to weigh in on what to do! I do not believe it is the decision of a few to take that step. With a price near assessed value, as reported in the flurry of news articles, this appears to be a giveaway of my public property. I’ve heard comments that City Hall is not a landlord, but neither did we elect people to sell off our property.

Let me offer a few out of-the-box ideas. Who knows who may improve on them. Consider that there are probably fewer than a dozen properties held by the city that are viable for development. Currently we hear that two of the closed schools are also undergoing closed-door negotiations for sale. In light of recent city changes, shouldn’t we also be thinking differently about those properties? For example, the Cranston-Calvert school might be sold with a strict caveat that a portion be renovated as residential, that another portion be demolished, and on that site with a majority of the rest of the grounds, we would require a three-story parking structure in design similar to the school’s brickwork with greenery buffers and shielded lighting. This could be a profit-sharing proposition that would be a huge boon to the parking issues of the newly revitalized Broadway entranceway to Newport. It would capitalize on the development and provide for the community’s much needed parking. It’s much better than giving away public parking. And a tip of the hat to Annapolis for having a beautiful and serviceable parking garage in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood in the middle of downtown!

As for the Coggeshall School, well, “the schools are vacant because the city’s elementary school students in kindergarten through fourth grade now attend the new Claiborne Pell Elementary School on Dexter Street.” That Newport Daily quote from October 2013 has missed the mark as Newport now leases school space from Middletown. Why not at least keep the property, tear it down, or do slow maintenance in case we need space in the future. Think of the many community programs that could benefit from having such space!

At this stage, call your City Councilor to put the brakes on the Armory sale and actually poll the community in public hearings, during which we can hear creative, positive ideas to keep the Armory in play as a public historic gem in the center of town and the waterfront. Let’s revisit the original plans and challenge our administration to stick to them, perhaps offer a solid long term lease but don’t sell! Selling may get the property back on the tax roles, but it is only a Band-Aid to the real financial challenges and a greater loss as one of the few remaining public parcels.

What happens in the future? Will it come to corporate branding?

West Marine Armory Wharf or even Verizon City Hall ?

Can we not do better as a community?

Chuck Bolduc
Newport

Development of the Armory Wharf Project–2010

To the Editor:

In April 2010, the city commissioned a business plan called the “Armory Wharf Project,” authored by the Department of Economic Development and the Newport Waterfront Commission. According to that report, “The City owned property, consisting of the Newport Armory and Ann Street Pier, is to be managed by an enterprise fund, a self-supporting operation independent from the City’s General Fund.”

The report states that the historic Armory and Ann Street Pier should be enhanced and carefully managed so as to be financially self-sustaining. Financial analysis within the report indicates that a 390-foot pier extension would be a solvent operation in year one of service and could contribute significantly to Newport’s Maritime Enterprise Fund. “The Armory and Ann Street Pier provide critical public services," the report states. They include the only public access to Newport Harbor between Perrotti

Park and King Park; the only public bathroom station on lower Thames Street…” The interior of the building and front courtyard of the historic Armory building should be restored.

A majority of the suggestions recited in this report have already been completed, including the construction of the Maritime Center with funds provided by a federal grant, together with some exterior and interior renovations to the Armory building, which include a modern public bathroom facility.

The master plan referenced in this report was commissioned by the Newport Redevelopment Agency and developed by the Cecil Group in 2005 to provide for general planning in the development of the property. It determined that the extension of the pier was an important component to the overall plan to generate the necessary revenue to make the project self-sustaining, as well as the completion of interior improvements to the lower level and second floor of the building in order to generate additional revenue. The business plan also supports the importance of the Armory building in the Armory Wharf Proposal.

Armory Antiques & Marketplace and its 125 vendors, employees and consignors have occupied a portion of the retail space within the Armory building for over 23 years and have paid rental to the City for that privilege. This retail use is referenced within the business plan as a source of income for the project. This type of retail operation is the highest and best use of the large open space in the street level building.

A copy of the business plan for the Armory Wharf project is available at Armory Antiques & Marketplace and is being made available to the Newport City Council, Newport Waterfront Commission and Friends of the Waterfront.

Anthony Zaloumis
Newport

Community Rallies Behind Project Purple

To the Editor:

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that helped to make the inaugural THP Project Purple volleyball tournament come together last week.

As part of the ongoing recognition of The Herren Project’s Project Purple Initiative, the Middletown Prevention Coalition wanted to have a community event that drew in every sector of Middletown, raising awareness and promoting healthy lifestyle choices.

The volleyball tournament was a huge success with 17 teams competing in two categories over six hours in front of cheering crowds. A great turnout for the first year, and something to be proud of.

The games displayed everything that is great about our small community coming together. Teachers from Middletown High School battled a team of students. Teams from both the Middletown Fire and Police departments added to the fun. Congratulations to the winners, Purple Rain, who defeated AMP Surf in the thrilling final match.

A special thank you to the Newport County YMCA for hosting, in particular Anne Schultz and Kristen Petrarca for working closely with the MPC Project Purple Planning Committee and Islanders, who were committed to get everything done. Thank you to Kevin Mikolayzk, Executive Director of The Herren Project. Another huge thanks to local businesses, Tickets Sports Bar, Carmella’s Pizza, and Aquidneck Pizza for donating food and refreshments to the hundreds of attendees and volunteers. To all of the area businesses for taking part in distributing the purple bows, thank you for helping to turn the town purple.

Project Purple week has become a rallying cry for all of our community. It is uplifting to see the town in purple lights and bows, showing support of the youth of Middletown. It truly makes a difference.

Jake Cathers
Vice Chairman
Middletown Prevention Coalition

Coyote Sightings Map Updated

To the Editor:

We wanted to let your readers know that the coyote sightings map maintained by the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (NBCS) has recently been updated. It focuses on Aquidneck Island and Jamestown and now includes sightings reported from April 2016 through January 2018.

These reports, along with data from our GPS tracking, help NBCS identify hotspots where human coyote interactions are occurring. Since Valentine's Day is the height of the mating season, we usually see an uptick in activity around this time.

To report a sighting for inclusion on the map, please complete a Coyote Sighting Report Form. The form and map are available through both of our websites--theconservationagency.org/coyote and coyotesmarts.org.

Thanks for your observations and please keep 'em coming! They help us identify trouble spots for the benefit of the community.

Numi Mitchell, PhD
Lead Scientist, Narragansett Bay
Coyote Study
Jo Yellis
Project Coordinator, CoyoteSmarts

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