things to do in newport, ri
Photo via Bowen's Wharf

As we move closer and closer to welcoming in 2016; I can’t help but wonder what will come of the following 16 questions that face us in the new year!

1 – Will 2016 be the year Newport finds and hires a City Manager?

Former City Manager Jane Howington resigned in the spring of 2014. Since July 25, 2014, Newport has had an Interim City Manager, Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr., Esq.

The City of Newport operates under a Council-Manager form of government, whereby the City Manager serves as the Chief Administrative Officer.

As important as Newport is to the travel and tourism industry to Rhode Island and, it’s imperative that Newport City Council does what they need to find someone to lead our city. It should be the most important thing on their “to-do” list.

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2 – Will The Broadway Streetscape Project Be Completed On-Time?

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), in partnership with the City of Newport, announced on April 15, 2015 that work would begin on the Broadway Streetscape Improvement Project, a $5.8 million contract with Cardi Corporation to resurface the roadway and upgrade pedestrian facilities. The project was designed using Complete Streets principles; the state’s Complete Streets Law requires that all federal- and state-funded road construction projects equally consider motor vehicles, bicyclists, public transportation and pedestrians. Completion is scheduled for fall 2016.

This project has been in the works for many years and has been SLOW moving. Many Broadway business owners have taken a hit to their bottom line and recently have begun a Broadway Business Association to take on this issue and try to get it organized. Will 2016 be the year that Broadway gets buttoned up?
3 – If voters approve/reject Newport Grand’s move to Tiverton, when will we know what the future is for that land?

Twin River Management Group announced back in April, 2015 that after purchasing Newport Grand that it had secured the rights to acquire land in Tiverton and plans to move Newport Grand to the new facility.

The proposal is subject to voter and regulatory approval. Will Tiverton and Rhode Island vote to approve the referendum question on the November 2016 ballot authorizing the plan? If they do, when will we know what Twin River plans to do with the property down the road? If they don’t, what does the future have in store for Newport Grand in Newport?

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4 –  With all the recent restaurant changes, will the restaurant scene be better off or worse off at end of 2016?

It’s been a year of change for the Newport Restaurant scene as many long-time restaurants were sold, changed hands or closed up. Thames Street Kitchen, Yesterday’sRhumblineCanfield House, Katrinas Bakery, Perry Mill Tavern, Ocean Breeze and the Atlantic Beach Club all have or will close within the last 14 months.

Ocean Breeze has reopened as Larussos, Katrinas has reopened as Cru Cafe, Cafe Zelda and Perry Mill Tavern, Rhumbline and the Atlantic Beach Club will reopen under new ownership and management in 2016. Willy’s Burger Bar also announced recently that they were for sale.

What will the restaurant scene look like at the end of 2016?
5 – Where will the Newport Skating Center call home for 2016/2017 winter?

The Newport Skating Center successfully raised the funds needed to operate at it’s old home at the Newport Yachting Center for the 2015/2016 winter. If Peregrine starts construction on their recently purchased property and doesn’t have room to keep the Newport Skating Center, will where it land in Newport?
6 – Will we see new active citizens run for city council or for office in 2016?

Believe it or not, we will be jumping into election season locally once again. Last election we saw only one Newport City Councilor (Marco Camacho, Ward 1) run opposed and residents run campaigns against long-time city council members (Edwards vs Leonard for Ward 3). Anthony Spiratos has already announced he will run against Senator Theresa Paiva Weed, will we see any other concerned citizens stand-up and run against anyone else on our city council? Will we see a new Mayor?

7. Will 2016 be the year we really feel the loss of the Newport Yachting Center?

After the sale of the Newport Yachting Center in September 2015 and the end of music and comedy on the Newport Waterfront, many were left wondering if we would feel the loss during the summer of 2015.

With the success of the Volvo Ocean Race in May and near-perfect weather throughout Spring, Summer and Fall; many would argue that loss was not felt. Will 2016 be the year that the restaurants and shops downtown feel the impact?

8. How do we get small businesses and restaurant working together, how do we really push the shop/dine local movement in Downtown Newport?

This may be my biggest pet peeve and concern. Almost always throughout December you could drive through Newport and find only one or two stores open after sunset, during Christmas shopping season.

People will not come to Newport  to shop (at any time of the year) if we don’t do something to be more consistent with our retail hours. While some have and do stay open until 8pm or 9pm, more and more closed earlier this year “because everyone else does”. The mall is always open the same hours, people know when they go there that stores will be open. How do we get stores to stay open late?

Building up and supporting our retail scene is the final equation to making this a consistent go-to location for everything you can possibly need. But, we need to stores to be open. Yes, I know this cost money but looking long-term if all stores stayed open until 8pm, eventually Newport would be known for that.

9. Will we see progress of any kind with The Breakers Welcome Center?

The Newport Superior Court dismissed all appeals of the Newport Zoning Board decision approving construction of the proposed welcome center at The Breakers on December 8th.  Judge Walter Stone decided that none of the appellants had legal standing to challenge the approvals. The appeals are now heading to RI Supreme Court (RI Supreme Court to hear appeals on Breakers battle).

How will RI Supreme Court vote and will we see an end finally to this drama?

10. Speaking of drama, what kind of impact will the recent allegations against St. George’s School have on its future?

 St. George’s in Middletown found themselves on the front cover of The Boston Globe on December 15th for things that allegedly happened in the 1970’s at the school that include allegations of sexual abuse”. Since then, Hundreds Sign Online Petition Asking St. George’s School to Take Action on Alleged Sexual Abuse.

Where will these allegations go, what impact will it have and will St. George’s reputation survive?

11. What progress will we see to the upgrade of Newport’s Welcome Center? 

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline has announced that the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is being allocated an additional $4,346,001 in federal funding for exterior repair and improvement work at the Newport Gateway Center, one of RIPTA’s major transit hubs.  This brings the federal contributions for the project up to $6 million.

More Info: RI Receives Additional $4.3 Million to Upgrade Newport’s Gateway Center

Currently, RIPTA is working with the City of Newport and a Design Review Committee created for the project to come up with a design that is functional, aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for the city’s historic waterfront. What will the progress be? What will the new building look like? How will it help the travel and tourism industry here in Newport?

12. How will Newport and Aquidneck Island be included in Rhode Island’s new tourism campaign?

Award-winning New York-based agency Havas PR North America has won the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation account and appointed ‘Team Rhody’ to fulfill its role as one of three firms developing and deploying the state’s $4.5 million tourism campaign.

Read More: Meet the Dynamic PR Team Behind the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s New Tourism Campaign

How will Newport be involved, included, mentioned or sold in the new campaign?

13. What new events and organizations will eye Newport in 2016?

We’ve already seen World Match Racing announce they will be coming to Newport in May of 2016 due to the success of the Volvo Ocean Race last may and Bowen’s Wharf plans on hosting two new events, the Newport Oyster Festival and Wood Boat Show, will the success of past events continue to draw in new events?

14. (Ok, this one is just for fun) Will Richard Hatch survive The Biggest Loser?

Newport native, Richard Hatch will compete on the next edition of NBC’s The Biggest Loser.  Season 17 of the popular reality show will premiere on January 4th at 9pm.

Hatch is best known for winning $1 million and the first season of the long-running reality series “Survivor” in 2000 and appearing on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2011. He returned to “Survivor” in 2004 for “Survivor: All Stars,” penned a book entitled “101 Survival Secrets” and also appeared on “Dog Eat Dog,” “The Weakest Link,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Battle of the Network Reality Stars” and “Family Feud.”

Overweight his whole life, Richard says his biggest motivation for going on “The Biggest Loser” is his “amazing and fit husband, Emiliano.”

15. What impact will the sale of the Atlantic Beach Club have on the crowds and business around First Beach?

Atlantic Beach Club, an Aquidneck Island institution since the late 1920’s, will see an end to its long and storied journey come January 1st, 2016.

After almost 90 years of being in operation, it was announced on February 19th that LONGWOOD would be purchasing the Atlantic Beach Club and opening it as a new waterfront wedding venue, the Newport Beach House, in 2016.

This is Longwood’s second venue in Newport, following the success of Belle Mer, which opened in 2006 and was named one of best venues in America for 2015.

While design work is already underway, the renovation and conversion of the iconic property will begin in early 2016. LONGWOOD will take over operations of the property in January, 2016.

The ABC Patio was famous for being a good time, what impact will the loss of all those people having fun on the waterfront have on the local business of the beach and the local businesses surrounding them?

16. Will the Atlantic Resort/Newport be a hit?

Much of the staff and management of the Atlantic Beach Club will be heading to the The Atlantic Resort/Newport. Construction on “Newport’s Newest Hotel & Event Center”, located at 240 Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, is well underway and moving along nicely and expects to open in June 2016.

The Atlantic Resort/ Newport will consist of 141 hotel rooms, 2 large & 1 small banquet room, a restaurant & lounge, indoor swimming pool, outdoor terrace, and amazing views of the Atlantic ocean and Easton’s Pond.

Additional things on our mind…

  1. What impact will newly appointed Executive Director Joe Dias have on Fort Adams?
  2. Will we continue to see the real estate market grow in Newport?
  3. Will the Opera House stay on schedule in 2016 and keep their goal of opening as December of 2017?