News & Event
By Sean Flynn | Staff writer
NEWPORT, R.I. — A developer based in the city is offering to purchase the former Cranston-Calvert School off Broadway and convert it into a 34-unit apartment complex that includes two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments.
BCM Realty Partners LLC has offered the city the “gross sum” of $1 million for the property, City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. told the City Council Wednesday night.
“The pricing is in line with a fair market value appraisal that I commissioned to determine the range of value, as is,” he said.
A gross sales price was cited because hazardous waste remediation may be necessary at the school, to remove asbestos for example, and the city may provide a certain credit to the developer for that work, he said.
“We could have a lower net sales price,” he said.
* BACKGROUND: Three historic city buildings now on the selling block
Rehabilitation costs are extremely high, Nicholson said in response to concerns the sales price may be low.
The city is converting the former Sheffield School on Broadway into a business incubator center and the rehab costs there are about $185 a square foot, he said.
“This school conversion provides innovative housing space to attract young technology people to Newport to provide a ready technology-savvy workforce,” Nicholson wrote in a memorandum to the council about the Cranston-Calvert project. “While that may sound anecdotal, the idea is that we believe we can generate an economy for Newport that has at its core need housing availability.”
“We are trying to create a new economy in the north end,” Nicholson told the council members during discussion. “Part of being successful with that is to create affordable housing that will bring young people back to Newport.”
“A lot of young people I work with out at the base (Naval Station Newport), would love to live in a place like this,” said Councilwoman Jamie Bova, who is an engineer.
Census data shows that Newport has an aging population and the number of city residents is declining.
“We are facing significant population decline,” Nicholson said.
Rental costs per unit in the apartment building would be between $1,000 and $1,500 monthly.
Those rent prices are below rental costs for Section 8 housing, Councilwoman Kathryn Leonard said, referring to the federal subsidy program.
“We already have low-income housing,” she said.
There will be no subsidies attached to this project, stressed Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie and Nicholson agreed with her.
The exterior facade would be retained, but the interior would be totally reconstructed, Nicholson said.
Amenities in the apartment building would include “in-unit laundry, on-site parking, gym or media center, shared space on roof if desired by neighbors, virtual doorman, dry cleaning pickup/delivery, common area wi-fi, intercom system, high-end fixtures for lighting on exterior ...,” Nicholson wrote in the memorandum.
The Cranston-Calvert School was vacated when the students were moved to the new Pell Elementary School in 2013. The Cranston School was built in 1876 and the Calvert School in 1887. The were connected after the Hurricane of 1938.
Beginning in 2014, Berkshire Hathaway has been marketing the city’s vacant school properties that include the Coggeshall and Triplett schools, also vacated in 2013.
“There were numerous showings of the properties with no offers to purchase forthcoming,” Nicholson said. “The schools are just sitting there and deteriorating.”
The Newport Project Development Company, which was formed by consultants hired by the city to identify economic development projects, brought this school development project to the city for review, he said.
“There is a companion deal for the Coggeshall School,” Nicholson said. However, that proposal needs to be worked on, he said.
Nicholson said he sent letters to abutters around Cranston-Calvert to notify them of the proposed sale.
“I’ve gotten a good response from neighbors around the school,” he said. “I will go to neighborhood meetings.”
Nicholson said he did not want to just bring a finished purchase-and-sales agreement to the council without discussion.
“I do not have a formal purchase and sale agreement as of yet,” Nicholson wrote in the memorandum. “It is in draft form and not ready for your consideration. I hope to present that shortly.”
“It will enhance the neighborhood and add to our tax base,” he said.
Courtesy of Newport Daily News
By right under current zoning, the developer could put in 19 three-bedroom units in the property, Regan said.
“The 34 smaller units would be more affordable for moderate-income individuals,” he said.
Board members spoke favorably of the project itself and the concept behind it.
The city is hoping young professionals from the millennial generation will live in the new apartments and fill the technology jobs the City Council and administration are working to create.
The jobs could be in the new technology center now under construction in the former Sheffield School on Broadway, at a planned quantum and alternative computing center targeted for construction on John H. Chafee Boulevard, and further into the future, an innovation hub envisioned for the north end of the city.
“I’m not supportive of this level of specificity in the zoning code for a particular property, though,” said Planning Board Chairwoman Melissa Pattavina.
She asked why the developer could not apply for a variance and special use permit from the zoning board.
That would require a density and use variance that would be a difficult to obtain from the zoning board, Regan said. Since 19 larger units already are allowed under the zoning ordinance, the board would unlikely determine the “hardship” necessary to justify variances for more units than that, he said.
Four neighbors who live around the Cranston-Calvert spoke against the project, mostly because of what they said would be a lack of parking around the site. This would lead to a congestion especially on Bartlett Court that leads to the former school from Broadway. The former school is between Cranston and Calvert streets, which also run off of Broadway.
Regan said the developer would create 64 parking places.
Mary Jane Carr, a former city solicitor and an abutter, called the requested change “spot zoning.” Other former city properties such as the former Callender, Potter, Lenthal and Carey schools were all converted to residential properties under the zoning code, she said.
Sheila Tyler, another abutter, called the proposed project “too dense.”
“I invite you all to come to my home,” she said. “To call Bartlett Court a two-way street is an exaggeration.”
The Newport Project Development Co., made up of a consortium of private companies working with the city, is the developer and working with BCM Realty Partners of Newport, whose principal is Connor Melville.
The council approved a purchase-and-sales agreement with Newport Project Development in March. A condition of that agreement was regulatory approval for the conversion of the former school that is off Broadway into a multifamily apartment building. The apartments would be available as market-rate rentals and not be subsidized.
By Sean Flynn
MIDDLETOWN – An increasing number of families that have English as a second language, mainly Spanish speakers, may not be taking advantage of educational and social service programs that are available to them.
“We need more providers who speak the language,” said Stephanie Geller, a senior policy analyst with Rhode Island Kids Count, a statewide policy organization that works to improve the health, economic well-being, safety, education and development of children.
She and other Kids Count representatives came to BankNewport in the Aquidneck Corporate Park on Tuesday morning to present Newport data contained in its 2018 Factbook, an annual publication.
More than 70 representatives of social service agencies, community leaders and policymakers gathered for the “Data in Your Backyard” forum that featured improvements and declines in economic well-being, education, health, child welfare and safety for children and families in the city.
During the presentation and discussion among the participants, the increasing numbers of families who have English as a second language kept coming up as a challenge to be dealt with in various fields.
School Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain said there are now 227 students in the Newport schools who are English learners.
“This is 10.48 percent of the student population and the numbers are rising,” she said.
Most of the English learners are in the elementary grades, according to data presented by Jermain.
Statistics show the number of students who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade in Newport is fairly stable. That number was 37 percent in 2015, 33 percent in 2016 and 36 percent in 2017, according to Kids Count data.
Jermain said those levels are being maintained although there is an increasing number of English language learners, a high poverty rate among children and a lack of affordable housing for some families in need.
Geller agreed that when children are learning English, it is difficult for them to meet reading standards in the language.
Achieving reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone for children, speakers said. A fundamental shift occurs by the end of third grade: Children begin to move from learning to read, to reading to learn.
Students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their proficient peers, according to speakers. While interventions implemented before third grade have high rates of success, interventions after third grade are much less effective.
Sixty-four percent of Newport students as of October 2017 were from low-income families, meaning they qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school, Geller said. Only Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket have higher percentages of low-income children in their public schools, she said.
Housing in Newport is more expensive than the state average and many families here have been hit by high housing costs, speakers said. School Department staff identified 78 children in the schools who were homeless in the 2016-2017 school year, according to figures included in Geller’s presentation.
The average rent in Newport for a two-bedroom apartment in 2017 was $1,753 a month, compared to a $1,385 average in the state, the statistics showed.
Newport City Councilwoman Jeanne-Marie Napolitano pointed out the city has an inventory of 17 percent low- to moderate-income housing stock that is subsidized by the federal government, which is well above the 10 percent affordable housing mandated by state law and above the level in most other communities.
Still, there are long waiting lists for those units, said Rhonda Mitchell, executive director of the Housing Authority of Newport.
“We still do not have enough affordable housing,” she said.
Courtesy of Newport Daily News
By Matt Sheley | Staff Writer, April 6, 2018
NEWPORT, R.I. — Aquidneck Island is an expensive place to live — on that most people can agree. But what to do about it?
Members of the local legislative delegation told a crowd of about 100 people Thursday morning at the local Community College of Rhode Island campus they’re more than aware of the reality — and more needs to be done to help make Newport County affordable.
They agreed it’s not an easy issue to tackle, especially since the area is such a desirable place to live, and finding solutions will require creativity.
The discussion came up during the third annual Newport County Legislative Forum, sponsored by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission in partnership with The Newport Daily News and CCRI.
“It’s such an important discussion,” said Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Newport. “There’s nothing more fundamental to a family than being able to go home and have a roof over your head at night.”
“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is I would love to see a partnership between members of the assembly delegation and the City Council leadership in Newport,” said Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Newport. “I think that solutions are state-based and municipally based and I would encourage a task force or a conversation around a real diagnosis of what the problems are and some real brainstorming about how the state and municipalities can work better.”
According to statistics in the 2017 Housing Fact Book put out by HousingWorksRI, homebuyers need to make at least $113,419 annually to buy a median-priced home in Newport. The figures were $135,731 in Jamestown, $95,815 in Middletown, $95,670 in Portsmouth and $70,231 in Tiverton.
To “affordably” rent a two-bedroom apartment in Newport, people need to bring in $60,320, compared to $66,040 in Jamestown, $56,280 in Middletown, $68,560 in Portsmouth and $57,280 in Tiverton.
The report shows that a big part of the problem is that except for Newport, none of the communities in Newport County meet the 10 percent goal for low- or moderate-income housing. HousingWorksRI statistics show that 15.3 percent of housing in Newport meets that criterion, but only 4.4 percent in Jamestown, 5.4 percent in Middletown, 2.8 percent in Portsmouth and 5.1 percent in Tiverton.
Rep. Kenneth Mendonca, R-Portsmouth, agreed something has to be done or Newport County will continue to lose population. Among the ideas he suggested was getting creative with zoning and loosening density rules for suitable properties. He also suggested the town of Portsmouth look into the former Navy tank farm properties along Defense Highway for affordable housing.
“We live in an area that’s highly desirable, so you have a lot of short-term rentals, which drives up the costs and the price of homes, which makes it very difficult,” Mendonca said. “We know we’re an aging population, that it’s important that we retain our youth or that we attract our youth into our communities. As the prices drive up, it makes it harder for them to have a starter home here on the island.”
Legislators participating in the forum were Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown; Rep. James Seveney, D-Portsmouth; Euer; Carson; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown; and Mendonca.
Moderator Neil Steinberg of the Rhode Island Foundation said schedule conflicts prevented Reps. Marvin Abney, D-Newport; Dennis Canario, D-Portsmouth; Susan Donovan, D-Bristol; and Jay Edwards, D-Tiverton; and Sen. Walter Felag, D-Warren, from attending.
The group dug into several weighty issues, including ways to improve mass transportation and support for Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposal to spend $250 million in bond money to improve school facilities.
During a question-and-answer session, the panel was asked questions about proposal to ban semiautomatic rifles, the opioid crisis, the Base Realignment and Closure Process for Naval Station Newport and other topics.
Ruggiero said she supports Raimondo’s school bond proposal. She said anyone who’s been through the schools knows most of them need more work than the host communities can afford.
“We have not passed, in the state of Rhode Island, a school construction bond in almost 30 years,” Ruggiero said. “Think about that. That’s like two generations of kids going through these schools and I say that because if you look at Massachusetts, they have passed seven school construction bonds in the past 10 years.”
DiPalma said he too supports the bond, but tweaks are needed. He said the way the reimbursement formula is done now, it hurts fiscally responsible communities like Middletown that are already working to fix their schools.
“I do support the bond. We need it …,” DiPalma said. “But before I can support it 100 percent, the amendment needs to be there so that the communities I represent can benefit like the rest of the communities across the state. We don’t want to penalize anybody.”
For Seveney, streamlining the work-certification process for military spouses is an often-overlooked item the state should make more of a priority.
In his time in the General Assembly, Seveney said, he’s heard from a number of constituents who’ve been unable to get back to work because they don’t have the proper certification in Rhode Island, even though they have active certifications in other states. A former Navy officer, Seveney said his own wife — a teacher — dealt with such a situation.
“She has a master’s degree in early childhood education from Virginia and it took her 18 months (after moving to Rhode Island) before she was qualified for a full-time teaching job in the state of Rhode Island,” Seveney said.
Courtesy of The Newport Daily News
“We want this to happen,” Kaull responded. “The surveys we’ve gotten so far, it’s like 10 to 1 for those looking for affordable housing. It’s easily the top response we’ve seen to all the questions.”
Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:23 AM
Updated May 9, 2018 at 9:44 AM
MIDDLETOWN – Police today identified Donald Boucher of Newport as the 56-year-old man who was killed after the motorbike he was driving collided head-on with a Jeep on Monday morning on Valley Road.
Boucher was an unsuccessful candidate for City Council in 2012 and a member of the Newport Zoning Board of Review from 2013-15. He was active in addressing the issues of homelessness as director of Housing First and homeless services at Riverwood Mental Health Services in Barrington and Providence.
He was taken from the accident scene outside Eye Health Vision Centers at 73 Valley Road to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, where he died from his injuries, according to a police news release issued this morning.
A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed today that Boucher was pronounced dead at the hospital on Monday.
His work to help the homeless will be one of his lasting legacies, said Mary Reynolds, former president of Newport County Citizens to End Homelessness.
“Don was the spark in the initiative, along with members of Channing Memorial Church, to bring Housing First to Newport,” Reynolds said today.
“It was the beginning of a change in how we address homelessness and working to do more about the problem,” she said.
The Housing First program in Newport placed dozens of homeless people in permanent housing over several years. In his oversight role, Boucher was the moderator of a speaking program and vigil in April 2016.
“What is maddening about this situation is that it is avoidable,” Boucher said at the time. “We know how to tackle these problems of homelessness, addiction and substance abuse. We know what to do, we have the models, yet we continue to lack the public and political will to demand that we implement and fund those models.”
“When he spoke, it was amazing,” Reynolds said. “He was really well-liked and highly regarded.”
Boucher and his wife, Esther Boucher, were the parents of three adult daughters.
“Yesterday was a very tragic day for myself and my family,” Esther Boucher wrote on her Facebook page. “We lost my beloved husband, Don, to a horrific motorcycle accident. It is a constant reminder ... We are not promised tomorrow.”
While he was running for City Council, Boucher cited his service as a pastor at local churches, his knowledge about the nonprofit sector and his familiarity with how health care works in the region.
During a discussion at an Alliance for a Livable Newport forum in October 2012, he defended 50 Washington Square, the former Navy YMCA building that now houses a homeless shelter, social services and affordable housing units.
He said at the time there are 93 affordable housing units in the building, as well as social services that have helped people when they needed it.
By Matt Sheley | Staff writer Feb 20, 2018
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. — It’s not a question of if more affordable housing for seniors is coming to Middletown, but when.
That is the message from Town Council President Robert Sylvia, who said it is time for the community to do more to help its elderly population.
“I know that we all feel that way,” Sylvia said. “It’s going to happen and it will come to fruition. We haven’t decided where and when, but it’s a lock.”
At a recent meeting, the council was briefed by Rhode Island Housing CEO Barbara Fields about the different opportunities available to the community, should it opt to pursue such a project.
While no decisions were made, the council targeted the former Berkeley-Peckham School building on Green End Avenue, next door to the town’s senior center, as the most viable option.
When asked about the effort, Sylvia said the senior center would not be part of the project. Rather, he said the red brick classroom space that was formerly a schoolhouse could be converted into affordable apartments. The last time that area was in use was for office and meeting space during the filming of “The Discovery” in 2016.
“The old classrooms are certainly one of the possibilities we’re looking at,” Sylvia said. “There are other possibilities and this is certainly something we’re actively working on so our seniors can enjoy their ‘Golden Years’ instead of worrying about how they’re going to afford them.”
According to Fields’ presentation, it is important for communities like Middletown to step up and do more for retirees.
According to statistics on the agency’s website. Rhode Island has the 19th highest “Housing Wage” in the country. The National Low Income Housing Coalition said that means people need to make $19.49 an hour to pay for a two-bedroom rental home. And those who get paid minimum wage must work 81 hours a week to be able to afford the rent on that same apartment.
The issue isn’t a new one for the town of Middletown.
Going back five years, the council talked about ways to make the community more affordable, particularly for its most vulnerable populations.
Among the sites discussed then for a senior housing project were the old Berkeley-Peckham School, the current school administration property on Oliphant Lane, and a site on Valley Road between East Main and West Main roads.
So far, they’ve proved to be nonstarters, mainly because of the costs and complexity of taking on such deals. The neighboring communities of Newport and Portsmouth each offer affordable housing.
Last week, Councilmen Dennis Turano and Antone Viveiros unveiled a new plan to use the base assessment of a property to tax home and business owners, one they said could prevent people from getting forced from their homes.
Previously, Sylvia has talked about his desire for the town to enter into a public-private venture to get the senior affordable housing project done. On Sunday, he reiterated those thoughts, saying the concept is in the town’s grasp, and it is up to the community to grab it.
“We’ve been moving full steam ahead on this for awhile now,” Sylvia said. “It’s good, now that we’re starting to see the pieces falling into place.”
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