2018-08-16 / Front Page

Cranston-Calvert School Proposal Considered

Public Urged to Attend Planning/Zoning Forum
By James Merolla

Sept. 12 has become an important back-to-school day, except the school has been closed for a very long time, and the date is a public hearing to best decide what the City should do with it. The Cranston Calvert Elementary School conversion project will go before the Planning Board that day, to make sure the design to convert it into more than 30 apartments for young working people complies with city requirements.

At its Aug. 8 meeting, the City Council referred a petition from the developer of the former school to the Planning Board for its recommendations.

“One of their charges is to determine whether the proposed change to the zoning ordinance is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan,” City Manager Joseph Nicholson Jr. told Newport This Week. “This must be done first [in order] to convert the building into up to 32 one- to two-bedroom apartments. Subject to confirmation, I believe the current ordinance would allow 19 or 20 units.”

In March, the council voted 6-1 to authorize Mayor Harry Winthrop to sign the Purchase and Sales agreement to sell Cranston-Calvert to local developers for $1 million, pending the feasibility of all planning/ zoning details. It will then return to the council for a final vote. A condition of the agreement is regulatory approval of the off-Broadway site.

The Newport Project Development Company, made up of private companies, is working with BCM Realty Partners of Newport. The consortium has proposed converting the school into more than 30 unsubsidized apartments for which the city hopes to charge between $1,000 to $1,500 per rental unit.

The Newport Project Development Company (NPDC) was formed in January. It then brought in G-2 Investments, which contributed up to $700,000 to the project. The financial, technological and management resources to be funded by the consortium of companies involved is estimated to be at least $2.5 million. The maximum amount to be pledged by the city would be $500,000.

The NPDC and the city have begun work on several initiatives designed to make Newport “resilient” to sudden and unexpected downturns in the economy, including the Pell Bridge realignment, hydroponics, micro-grids and this potential plan for market-based housing.

The March vote followed a debate on the city’s goal to attract young professionals to Newport to fill various technology jobs that city officials have plans to create. But before the former school can be filled with workers, the jobs must be established, possibly in the planned technology center that is now being constructed at the site of another abandoned school, the Sheffield School on Broadway. The city has also discussed a new technology hub to be established in the North End of the city.

Mayor Harry Winthrop confirmed Tuesday, Aug. 14 that the requested zoning changes would allow the apartments to be constructed without the developer needing to petition the city Zoning Board of Review for variances or a special use-permit. Like other major projects, it would go through the city’s development plan review process.

“I'm concerned with the proposed project and frustrated that the building was not listed on the open market [recently],” said a Calvert Street resident and attendee at the Aug. 8 meeting who wished to remain anonymous.

“Many of us are worried about who might rent there, and the volume of people and what that will do to my property value and rental value. The street traffic would be a major problem on Calvert Street. Parking is already maxed out. Even a few extra cars will make it very hard for neighbors.”

Councilor Jamie Bova urged residents to attend the public hearing on the changes requested by the NPDC, and Nicholson said that people need to attend and voice their opinions.

The meeting will take place at City Hall on Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

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