2018-06-21 / Front Page

City Creates Model for Resilience

By Leif Walcutt


The map above of the downtown Broadway area corridor shows the 12 initial projects of the Newport resilience plan. These development opportunities will provide jobs and economic growth for the city. No other city in the U.S., or for that matter, globally can match Newport in it's unique combination of resilience prerequisites, i.e. data richness, technology innovations, and a local government geared to sustainable development. The map above of the downtown Broadway area corridor shows the 12 initial projects of the Newport resilience plan. These development opportunities will provide jobs and economic growth for the city. No other city in the U.S., or for that matter, globally can match Newport in it's unique combination of resilience prerequisites, i.e. data richness, technology innovations, and a local government geared to sustainable development. With news of rising sea levels and worsening storms due to climate change, Newport has proposed a plan based on national resilience models to protect it from isolation in the event of a major catastrophe. The city is taking concrete steps to make hypothetical preparedness measures a reality.

Based on the city’s Comprehensive Plan from a decade ago, Paul Carroll, Newport’s director of civic investment, was tasked with identifying local, regional, national and global economic and environmental challenges facing the City by the Sea. Recognizing that Newport was a 375-year-old coastal community, he explored how changing conditions would have physical and economic impacts on the city.

“I felt the city could create a portfolio that would coincide with economic resiliency within Newport,” said Carroll, indicating that the plan would include long-term issues such the Pell Bridge realignment, market-priced housing targeting for young people, food security, and how to prepare infrastructure for worsening weather systems.

The city’s plan, published in 2017 and titled “Creating a Model for National Resilience,” mirrored the “resilience engine,” a concept first developed by the global infrastructure and engineering corporation Louis Berger to rebuild Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

According to the resiliency plan, “Newport’s goal is to use the next 22 years, in preparation for its 400th anniversary, to position itself as the representative ecosystem for global thought leadership and action.”

“One of the first economic resilience initiatives was redeveloping the Sheffield School as a technology innovation accelerator,” said Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson, who helped spearhead efforts to break ground on the school project in May 2018.

“The Innovate Newport project was started as a means to diversify and expand technology innovation in the city beyond the presence of the Navy and its various independent contractors.”

According to the Newport plan, the city is working with a global consortium of partners to develop and roll out the resilience initiative. The partners include Louis Berger along with project development and finance company Converge, and Rhode Island-based Gilbane, the oldest privately owned construction company in America.

NEWPORT RESILIENCY TIMELINE

2012

*The Federal Highway Administration awards a $100,000 grant in 2012 to study the Navy hospital land and surrounding 60 acres around the proposed Pell Bridge ramp redevelopment for the Newport Innovation Hub. The city’s attempt at purchasing the property is still under negotiation.

2013

*A national request for proposals (RFP) is announced to take bids for writing the feasibility study of the innovation and resiliency idea. Colorado based Matrix Design hired.

2013-2014

*Stakeholders interviewed and feasibility public meetings held.

2015

*Newport attends conference with the New England Energy Council, where the idea is introduced to use microgrids as a resilient energy measure to protect coastal cities.

2014 - 2015

*Newport begins identifying 12 critical infrastructure projects that would become the core for its resilience model.

(See map above)

*A second RFP is launched nationally seeking advisors and strategic partners, and attracts 58 interested parties.

2016

*A major global consortium for the resilience initiatives is created as the city’s primary project advisor and strategic partner: Infralinx Capital, Louis Berger, and Gilbane construction company. The Newport Project Development Company (NPDC) is formed in January. NPDC brings in investment company G-2 Investments, which contributes to $700,000 to the project. The financial, technological and management resources to be funded by the consortium is estimated to be at least $2.5 million. The maximum amount to be pledged by the city would be $500,000. Carroll’s third-quarter report notes, “NPDC is using Newport as both a national test case/incubator around resilience as it pertains to ocean-related climate and systems change.”

*NPDC and the city begin work on several resilience initiatives, including the Pell Bridge realignment, hydroponics, microgrids, and market-based housing for millennials (potentially at the site of the previous Cranston-Calvert Elementary School).

2017

*The city begins to envision the construction of a Quantum and Alternative Computing Center.

*Newport wins $500,000 grant from the Working Cities Program and is chosen as one of 13 cities for a nine-month course to train citizens in the technology sector and other essential job skills.

2018

*The city is expecting schematics for redesign of the Pell Bridge.

*The construction of Innovation Newport at the former Sheffield School continues, with a target completion date of year-end 2018 or early 2019.

*The city submits the “Innovation Campus Rhode Island” proposal to the Rhode Island Executive Office of Commerce.

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