Editorial: Exciting idea for Newport

These are exciting times for Newport. In late July, the Carpionato Group unveiled plans for a stunning $100 million redevelopment of the former Newport Grand site.

The graceless former jai alai fronton would be replaced by two six-story hotels, totaling 260 rooms and 182,000 square feet, and two six-story apartment buildings, totally nearly 180,000 square feet. The development, called Newport North End, would also feature 164,000 square feet of “innovative research and office space, as well as medical, retail and restaurant space,” according to the Carpionato Group.

Gorgeous views of the Pell Bridge would be a strong selling point.

The project would work in tandem with the planned realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps, which would open up 40 acres for development. Newport officials are eying that land for an innovation district. That district could accommodate businesses associated with the area’s oceanographic work, alternative energy and defense.

“The innovation district, in order to survive out here alone, needs the full amenity package of hotels, restaurants and retail,” said Kelly Coates, president and CEO of the Carpionato Group. “We will build that first, along with [office space], before our abutting neighbors begin to develop as their portion of the innovation district.”

While the project is something new and different for Newport — indeed, it would be the largest private development project in city history — it would be out and away from the historic areas that make Newport so special to residents and such a magnet for tourists, such as the waterfront, the Colonial neighborhoods and the great mansions.

Mr. Coates stressed that the development would not be geared to tourists or tourism, but rather to permanent residents and those who would use retail, restaurants and lodging supporting an innovation center.

It would be a fabulous use of an area that is now underutilized but could benefit from its proximity to the bridge.

The Carpionato Group bought the Newport Grand property from Twin River for $10.1 million last year. Twin River shut down its slots palace there and opened one in Tiverton.

The developer expects that the development would create 250 construction jobs, 500 full-time permanent jobs and $1.5 million in annual real-estate taxes for the city. But those figures could grow, Mr. Coates said.

The Chapel View complex in Cranston, which the Carpionato Group developed, was projected to create 500 jobs and $1 million in annual taxes. It punched through those numbers with 1,100 employees and $2.5 million in annual taxes.

To move forward, the developer would need city approvals for a zoning change to accommodate a mixed-use planned district. It has begun a series of meetings to gather ideas from the community. Some members of the public and the Planning Board expressed concerns Monday night.

Let us hope that the negativity for which Rhode Island is famous does not stand in the way of opportunity and economic expansion in that part of the state. In Providence, an agonizingly protracted bureaucratic process has blunted opportunities to develop land freed up by the relocation of Route 195.

As Mr. Coates says: “We have an incredible opportunity to marry a magnificent improvement to the transportation system with a site ripe for development.”

We hope to see the empty and unattractive Newport Grand site replaced with a beautifully designed project that will infuse energy and opportunity into that area of the city.

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