2018-03-22 / Front Page

School Converts to Rentals

By Andy Long

The Newport City Council approved the Purchase and Sale Agreement for $1 million of the vacant Cranston-Calvert School to BCM Realty Partners and the Newport Project Development Corporation, LLC, at its March 14 meeting.

The two propose to convert the two buildings on Cranston Avenue into 34 one- and two-bedroom rental units. The envisioned rental rates range from $1,000 for a one-bedroom and $1,500 for a two-bedroom unit.

This agreement is just one stage in the process of transferring the property so that reconstruction might start. Before closing the sale, the city and the developers will negotiate deed restrictions and covenants on the property, negotiations that will reflect that for Newport this project is more than a straightforward real estate deal, but a step toward fulfilling one goal of its 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. (See “Council Meets on Housing, Lighting, New Report on Children,” NTW, March 8, 2018).

This proposed development addresses one need, affordable housing, identified in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, a plan shaped by an overall goal of generating a new knowledge-based economy in the North End.

Paul Carroll, Newport’s director of civic investment, referenced the plan when speaking to the council about the Cranston-Calvert project and how its projected 34 rental units would be part of a “whole systems approach” to the creation of what he termed “an innovation economy.”

Available, price-appropriate housing is a critical part of the “system” Carroll spoke of, necessary to attract the high-tech firms who employ young, technologically proficient workers. He spoke of one company considering locating in Newport and of their projections of hiring at first 69, then another 300 skilled workers at starting salaries of $140,000. But to attract such companies there must be a supply of attractive, affordable apartments for their prospective employees.

When Carroll finished, Council

Member Kate Leonard spoke of two objections, one being that the property hadn’t been advertised nationally when it was first marketed, thus not realizing its highest possible price, and two that it might not serve its intended purpose. “I agree with the mission.”

When she spoke of the “intended purpose,” she was referring to the aim of providing housing for the young and highly educated workers the city hopes to attract.

Leonard went on to say, “I don’t see it will accomplish what we want to accomplish,” she said. “How can we control the type of tenants and the rents?”

She added that the units might be rented to part-time residents rather than the highly educated, highly skilled young people Newport hopes to attract, and wondered how that would be prevented.

City Manager Joseph Nicholson addressed her second point by saying that there was a “need to negotiate certain covenants and restrictions,” but gave no specifics of the sort of restrictions which would ensure that the 34 rental units would serve their intended purpose.

He said further that, “This will come in front of you and at that time we’ll not only discuss the zoning attributes of the property, which you’ll have to approve, as well as the covenants and restrictions that lock that type of stuff down,” meaning that the councilors would have a chance to review all the agreements made between the city and the developers, and that they’d have to approve them before the sale could close.

Before the councilors could vote to approve signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement, local developer Buddy Hill offered to buy the property for $1 million in as-is condition. Hill would convert it into a condominium of 28 units, selling in the range of $350,000 to $600,000.

He spoke of his belief that his proposal would be more appropriate for the neighborhood and would do more to enhance the attractiveness of Broadway as a destination area.

Hill asked the council for a 30- day delay in signing the contract with BCM Realty Partners, so that he could submit a formal bid.

However, his offer never got to a vote. Council Member Jeanne-Marie Napolitano voiced her support for the sale to BCM by saying, “I’m ready to take a leap of faith.”

Councilor Susan Taylor agreed, and referring to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, said, “Sometimes we have to have faith that we’re going in the right direction.”

The motion to approve signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement passed, 6-1.

In Other Matters:

Approved: an application by Newport Bicycle to rent bicycles.

Received: a communication from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council regarding a proposed 163-foot dock to be constructed at 117 Washington St. It was referred to the Planning Board and Waterfront Commission for recommendations.

Received and referred to the planning board: a letter from Attorney Matthew Leys requesting on behalf of Newport Lodging, LLC, that all short-term rentals, either daily, weekly or monthly, be prohibited outside of the General Business, Limited Business, or Waterfront Business Districts unless they meet the standards of a guest facility or temporary housing for yachting organizations, as defined in the Newport Zoning Code.

Approved: two resolutions to the General Assembly, one requesting an additional 1 percent sales tax on meals and beverages in Newport, and the other requesting the same increase in the hotel tax on all Newport hotels, with the increased funds to support local schools, school safety and capital improvements.

Approved: a resolution to the General Assembly to allow Newport to charge service fees to owners of untaxed properties.

Continued: a resolution to direct the city solicitor to draw up an ordinance prohibiting the use of amplified announcements by RIPTA buses, known as “Talking Buses,” within 700 feet of or in a residential neighborhood

Approved: a contract not to exceed $40,000 to Steel Giraffe, LLC of Newport to repair the perimeter ornamental iron fence of Eisenhower Park at Washington Square. The contractor will also remove a 65-foot length of similar fence inside the park and use it to repair the perimeter fence

Passed: the second reading of an ordinance to establish the fees to use the King Park Gazebo at $100 for Newport residents and $250 for all others

Approved: a contract not to exceed $47,250 to paint the walls and floors of the Cliff Walk restrooms and the men’s room and the break room at the city yard. Director of Public Services, William Riccio, explained that the seemingly high cost of the contract is due to the use of more expensive epoxy paint, which will last for 10 years, rather than the two-year lifespan of regular concrete paint

Approved: accepting a $150,000 grant from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, an amount to be matched by the city, to repair and restore the windows of the Edward King House

Approved: a contract not to exceed $15,000 to East Coast Construction of Portsmouth to haul street sweepings to the landfill

Received: the Popular Annual Financial Report for July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017

Approved: victualing Licenses for Curry Land and Norey’s, both of Newport

Approved: a request by Conanicut Marine Services, Inc., operators of the Jamestown and the MV Katherine ferries, to sell alcoholic beverages while dockside in Newport

Approved, subject to details being worked out with city staff: a request from Discover Newport to park a Volvo truck with a promotional banner at Easton’s Beach during the May stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race

Approved unanimously: the appointments of Deborah R. Berdy, Ellen Will and Deborah Winthrop to the Newport Hospitality Commission

Received with regret: the resignations of Jennifer Carter from the Newport Hospitality Commission, and those of Samuel Radov and Brian Kiracofe from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission

Renewed: a private detective license for David Bruce of TBK Investigations

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