The Carpionato Group, which purchased the former Newport Grand property more than three years ago, is redesigning the project, hopeful of beginning work by early 2023.

Initially, with plans to begin construction in 2020 on a $100 million multi-use development, the project was put on hold because of the pandemic and the city’s moratorium on North End construction, as the city modified zoning and its comprehensive plan. 

Meanwhile, the property has sat vacant, weeds growing throughout the huge parking lot, a RIPTA van parked behind the building, near a tractor-trailer truck. Elsewhere, a recreational vehicle sits empty, possibly abandoned, and a car is jacked up with one of the wheels missing. 

Some city officials have become frustrated at the delays, even though much of the delay is the result of the city’s own actions.

“I’m frustrated, but cautiously optimistic,” said Newport Mayor Jeanne Napolitano. “I’m looking forward to the project moving forward,” acknowledging that the company “has some issues.” 

Among those issues will be meeting new zoning and comprehensive plan requirements, and rising costs.

“The Newport City Council modified the zoning and comprehensive plan for the North End District, which is the key entitlement for the former Newport Grand Property,” said Gregg Perry of the Perry Group and spokesperson for Carpionato. “Based on the input of the City Council, the planning board and their consultants, the project is being redesigned and prepared for resubmission to the Newport Planning Board as well as to the Rhode Island Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management.  We anticipate a one-year design and permitting process and that we will begin construction in Spring 2023.”

Perry said the plan as presented on the company’s website is being modified and will be updated to meet “comp plan changes.”

Among those, Perry said, are locating all “onsite utilities underground,” and “working with city and state officials to mitigate existing drainage challenges on the site.”

He said the company anticipates demolition of the old casino building to begin in the first quarter of 2023 “with project completion by quarter three of 2023,” although when the company initially announced plans it projected construction to take two to three years.

Carpionato unveiled plans for the $100 million project three and a half years ago. Since then, costs have escalated, particularly during the pandemic.

“There have, of course, been significant cost increases over the last 24 months,” Perry said.   “Some of these cost increases are pandemic related – there are supply chain issues that are difficult to project out 12 months into the future.  It is our belief and hope that as the pandemic subsides and with time the supply chain issues will subside and costing will likewise ease.”

Carpionato Group of Johnston purchased the Newport Grand property at 150 Admiral Kalbfus Road from Twin River LLC for $10.15 million in 2018. Twin River closed Newport Grand shortly after the purchase and opened Tiverton Casino Hotel.

When Carpionato initially unveiled its plans for the 23.5-acre property it was to feature two six-story hotels, with 260 rooms, and two six-story apartment building. It was also to include 164,000 square feet of “innovative research and office space, as well as medical, retail and restaurant space,” according to Carpionato Group.

Rendering of plans in 2018

The intent, according to Carpionato, is not to compete for tourism visitors. “The hotel rooms would be marketed toward business travelers and the apartments toward “younger workers and those seeking to downsize,” according to Carpionato Group.

The company had also projected that the development would generate $1.5 million in annual tax revenue, create 250 construction jobs, and some 500 permanent jobs “when completed.”

In stating its mission for the project, Carpionato Group said “Newport North End will be the amenity rich support for Newport’s Innovation District. It is not designed to be a tourist destination nor to compete with Thames Street. Newport North End is designed to provide the structural amenities necessary to assist Engage Newport in building its national model for resilience and innovation.”

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal....