News & Event
All these smaller units would be more affordable for moderate-income individuals, according to the justification behind the development plan.
Courtesy of Newport Daily News
Updated: Apr 29, 2019 at 5:26 PM
Attempt to give younger adults preference for planned new apartments raises legal issue.
Behan said he would draft a resolution in line with recommendations of the council that would not conflict with fair housing laws, for consideration by council members at their May 8 regular meeting.
Courtesy of The 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.
Updated: Aug 11, 2019 at 10:07 AM
During the upcoming phase of the project the Housing Authority will be demolishing a total of 58 apartments and constructing a total of 56 new ones.
NEWPORT — The new construction of Park Holm apartment buildings off Hillside Avenue across from Miantonomi Park is expected to begin this year after a four-year pause in the ambitious project.
Rhonda Mitchell, executive director of the Newport Housing Authority, announced recently that financing for almost all of the $17 million needed for Phase III of the project has been secured.
The mood at a meeting of the Housing Authority board of directors meeting on Thursday was celebratory.
“Lots of wonderful things are happening now and I’m really excited,” Mitchell told the board.
In the first two phases, completed in 2015, a total of 111 apartments were built all new -- or totally gutted and reconstructed -- so that all the buildings look new.
When Phase III is completed, there will be a total of 167 new and modernized units, with 95 remaining to be completed during planned phases IV and V.
Pezzuco Construction Inc. of Cranston will be the general contractor for the upcoming phase, as the firm was for the first two phases. Pezzuco won the bid from six firms that applied, Mitchell said.
Union Studio Design of Providence will be the architect for Phase III. The architect for the first two phases was Davis Square Architects of Somerville, Massachusetts.
Pezzuco is hoping the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the demolition of the old units in the coming month so that building foundations can be poured before the winter cold sets in, Mitchell said. That way they can do the framing of the new apartment buildings and interior work during the winter.
“Otherwise, they will have to begin construction in April next year,” she said.
Park Holm was constructed beginning in 1940 to provide affordable housing for military servicemen and their families. The development had been showing its age in recent decades. A master plan study in 2009 showed that all the buildings had to be significantly rehabilitated, meaning they had to be gutted or demolished to make way for new construction.
The Housing Authority pledged a makeover of Park Holm that would match the conversion of the former Tonomy Hill development into the award-winning Newport Heights.
Financing of the full project has been difficult.
“We have to apply to so many funding sources,” Mitchell said.
The state Building Homes Rhode Island Program recently awarded $2.68 million to almost complete the financing of Park Holm’s Phase III.
There is still $800,000 to go for this phase, but that financing is pending, Mitchell said. Applications have been submitted to the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program and to housing trust funds.
The Housing Authority is using $3 million of its own capital funding for this phase and has secured additional financing through a Federal Home Loan Bank, one of 11 U.S. government-sponsored banks that support housing finance and community investment.
The balance of funding for this phase, like for the whole project, will come from tax credit financing, in which an investor will buy the credits, Mitchell said.
Housing Authority Board Chairman Charles Laranjo and Mitchell thanked U.S. senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, and state Senator Dawn Euer for visiting the Park Holm site and advocating with government agencies for the needed funding.
They are hoping that advocacy continues.
More than $35 million was spent on phases I and II, so with the $17 million, a total of $52 million has been committed to the Park Holm makeover so far, Mitchell said.
At least another $40 million will be needed for the completion of phases IV and V, since construction costs increase annually, she said. It could take another five to 10 years before that additional financing can be secured.
The 95 apartments waiting to be reconstructed will not be neglected during that time, Mitchell said.
Starr Services of West Warwick, owned by Kenneth Lavallee, has been hired to do exterior painting, fixing roofs and other maintenance work at the remaining units. He is committed to hiring some local Housing Authority residents to complete that work, she said.
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.
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.
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.
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