If all goes to plan, the Newport Yachting Center property would include a hotel, restaurant, retail, parking, a parking space and much more by the time we welcome the summer of 2019.
Sam Bradner, Managing Partner for Peregrine Group and Colin Kane, Founding Partner for Peregrine Group, shared their ideas, hopes and their Conceptual Master Plan for the downtown Newport Yachting Center property with about 50 people at the Friend Of The Waterfront Annual Meeting on Thursday night at Newport Public Library.
Peregrine Group purchased the Newport Yachting Center, including the Mooring Restaurant, the Smokehouse Restaurant, the Sunset Terrace, and the marina and parking operations from Newport Harbor Corp. back in September of 2014.
Since the purchase, the majority of the property has primarily been used for parking by The Peregrine Group while they figured out what the best use of the property would be. During that time, the property has continued to host the Newport International Boat Show and the Newport Skating Center.
During the winter of 2015/2016, The Peregrine Group focused on Phase 1 of their plans – which included spending approximately $1.7 million updating the Sunset Terrace (to become The Bohlin) and what they call Marina Point. Those updates included updating the venue, as well as a significant investment in green infrastructure and storm water management.
Newport Harbor Corporation continues to operate the restaurants (The Mooring and Smoke House) under the Newport Restaurant Group umbrella, The Bohlin, and boat shows under long-term lease agreements.
Peregrine has completed projects in Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, California, and Mexico City, as well as several projects in Rhode Island, including the Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill, American Locomotive in Providence, and Rumford Center in East Providence.
Because the grade of the majority of the property and the flood zone, Kane explained that they quickly learned that if they wanted to put something like Bowen’s Wharf or Bannister’s Wharf on the property, that the buildings would have to be at least 14 feet off the ground. “You’ve all seen how 41 North is built, that’s what we would have to do for anything new built on the property,” Kane explained.
While keeping parking, the marina, restaurants that are already there, host of the Newport International Boat Show and the residents and neighbors of Newport in mind and in the plans, Peregrine scrapped at least a large portion of their original plans and has rolled out a Conceptual Master Plan for Phase 2 of the project.
Peregrine’s guiding principles on Phase 2 were formulated around enhancing public experience, integrating with existing fabric and uses, maintain (but mask) functional components, minimize impact on neighbors and reduce storm water management.
From North (The Mooring parking lot) to South (where the Newport Yachting Center Tent once stood), Phase 2 includes;
Activating Streetscape & Mixed Use Building. Peregrine’s plans call masking parking. Several times Kane mentioned how uninviting it is to see cars parked or an empty parking lot. Phase 2 would include “hiding parking”. From the street people would see the public park, pathways and small retail units. Peregrine would hope to move all “back of house” from the restaurants already on the property to the same place.
The small retail “pods” come from an idea used in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. These would be portable units that can be rolled out for the season and then put away once it gets cold or when a storm comes. Kane mentioned it would be ideal for retailers that are already in town to open a small satellite location right on America’s Cup.
Along the former Newport Yachting Center tent lot, there would be buildings. “They’d be right on the street, sort of like how it is on Lower Thames Street where the door faces the sidewalk and you can just walk in,” Kane shared. The plan in this lot calls for a 70+ room micro hotel, restaurant, courtyard and parking underneath these buildings. “These (hotel) rooms would be 150 – 175 square feet. They would just include a bedroom and bathroom. We know how seasonal this town is, we know we can’t operate this with a Chef and full staff. The goal is to for these people to eat at local restaurants,” explained Kane.
“The hotel will be 50,000 square feet, she will feel big but she won’t be as big as Perry Mill or the condo building next door”, Kane said. While Peregrine would run the hotel, Kane said he hopes that the restaurant would be run by Newport Restaurant Group, “we have a great relationship with them, they are great tenants”.
Ped/Vehicular Realignment. With the pathways and new alignment, parking would be placed under the aforementioned buildings. The entire project would reduce parking on the property by about 20% from what it’s been operating at over the last two seasons. When considered against when the Newport Yachting Center was hosting concerts and events, there would probably be an equal amount of parking spaces when this project is done.
Enhanced Access. “As you travel down America’s Cup, there are several places that are welcoming and what I call ‘pause places’, places to meet, relax and make decisions. I want this to be a place that engages the public”, Kane said. Kane explained that he hoped to make a replica of a bell that is at the Rhode Island State House and put it in this park – “It would be portable, but kids would be able to climb on it. We’d roll it out on holidays like the 4th of July. It would be a great tribute to this once being a Navy town.” Kane explained how ugly and awkward it is to walk through the alleyway of Bannister’s Wharf and just get dumped into The Mooring’s parking lot, he hopes that this would make the entire Wharf and area much more inviting. It was evident throughout the entire meeting (and rightfully so in front of the crowd that they were speaking to) that Peregrine Group wants to keep and enhance the public’s waterfront access on the property.
Both Bradner and Kane made it very clear during their 45+ minute presentation that they are here to invest in the city, create a place that you would want to visit, and that they want to accommodate the needs of everyone and they want to hear what everyone has to say.
“We will not enter public process without support. We are here to invest and want to make sure that our plans and intentions are well known,” Kane said.
Kane thinks that after finalizing plans, meeting with the community and going through the City and State process that construction would start in late 2017 at best. He anticipates the entire project would cost more than $20 million and if all went well would take 16 – 18 months to complete.
Kane made it a point to say that the goal is to employ local, “we’d hire a local contractor and workers from right here on Aquidneck Island”.
The crowd at the Newport Public Library asked about 12 questions throughout the night and after the presentation, the only question that left some upset was about the beloved Newport Skating Center. While the Newport Skating Center is schedule to return this winter, Kane told a resident in the audience that “it would probably not return after this year.” Bradner explained further that they would have to look at the plans and see if they could fit it somewhere else on the property in the future. “Folks should realize how big that rink and how much it costs to run it. Michele (Maker Palmieri, President & CEO of Waterfront Productions which operates the Newport Skating Center) and her team are great to work with, they’ve been great. It’s our hope that if we start construction or if our final master plans show that we can’t host the skating rink that Michele the public and the city can work together to keep the skating rink in Downtown Newport., they have our support.” Kane said.
“If we don’t get the support and approval to move forward with these plans, the Newport Skating Center will probably return every year,” Kane joked.