News Flash

Town News and Updates

Posted on: October 6, 2022

"Middletown Center" Negotiations Continue

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At a meeting this week, the Town Council extends the negotiating window for the "Middletown Center" project by three months. While no deal has been struck, local leaders remain optimistic for the future of the 15 acres on West Main Road. #MiddletownRI

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 842-6543 or msheley@middletownri.com 


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“MIDDLETOWN CENTER” NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE

 

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (OCTOBER 6, 2021) – The Town of Middletown continues to work to finalize an agreement for the “Middletown Center” project. 


At a meeting earlier this week following an executive session discussion, the Town Council approved a three-month extension to continue negotiations over the future of the 15 acres at 600-740 West Main Road.


In the past several months, representatives for the town have been meeting with a trio of local developers who have been brought in to transform the unused property in heart of Middletown’s commercial district.


Because everything remains under private talks and nothing has been finalized to date, no terms of what’s been discussed have been released yet. Should a tentative agreement be struck, all those details will go to the council for review and approval.


“The administration, (town) solicitor and town’s financial consultant are exchanging data that’s necessary to prepare an accurate financial model for the Town Council to negotiate a final agreement,” Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown told the council at a meeting Monday from Town Hall.


As the town and developers — Chris Bicho, James Karam and Rocky Kempenaar — continue their conversations, the new Middletown Center Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) is coming together too.


Volunteers were appointed to the group recently to help shape the look, feel and design of “Middletown Center,” should it be approved to move forward. Those serving on the committee include: Karen Barbera, Emily Buck, Diana Campagna Skaggs, Kerrie James, Deborah Murphy, Karen Roarke and Melissa A. Welch. Later in the meeting, the council also named Sara Poirer from the town’s Open Space & Fields Committee and Michael Fenton from the Planning Board to CAC. 


Going back to March 2008, the fate of the “Middletown Center” property has been an open question. 


That’s when the Navy announced during a closed-door meeting in Newport City Hall that a number of their sites across Aquidneck Island were going to be “excessed,” or made available.


One of those sites was the now vacant former Navy Lodge property at the corner of Coddington Highway and West Main Road. At the time, the town showed immediate interest in purchasing the three-acre parcel that had been home to an off-base Navy hotel. In January 2018, the town formally closed on the land for $1.3 million following a lengthy federal review process.


From the beginning, town officials talked about their interest in placing a high-end mixed residential-commercial project on the West Main Road property. The proposed development site also includes the West Main Recreational Complex, the Middletown Public Library and the former Kennedy School.


In addition to creating a new “town center” for Middletown, town officials have said suitable development there could generate needed tax revenue for the community. None of the property in the heart of Middletown’s commercial corridor has generated a nickel in taxes for the town in decades dating back to the World War II era — and potentially earlier.


After a national search for a suitable developer, the town selected the team of Bicho, Karam and Kempenaar to partner with to redo the site. Bicho owns The Landings neighborhood next door as well as other properties across the island and Karam and Kempenaar have a long track record of successfully building hotels in Town.


When the partnership was announced, town leaders talked about the trio’s deep roots in the community as one of the major selling points. Another was the concept they promoted, which included affordable housing, mixed retail-commercial growth and other amenities.


A short time later, the “Middletown Center” proposal was unveiled. On the former lodge property at the south end, a 144-room hotel would be built. Half the hotel would be for upper mid tier rooms under the Hilton or Marriott corporate flag. The remainder would feature upper mid tier extended stay rooms with kitchens and other amenities for those in the area for awhile.


Moving north, several mixed residential-commercial buildings would front West Main Road, with several apartment buildings behind. All told, there would be 150 new apartments, 95 of those two-bedroom units.


Then, a large common green space with outdoor stage and new, modern Middletown Public Library would be installed at the northern end of the site.


According to design plans, there would be four curb cuts total on West Main Road and Coddington Highway to serve the entire site. That’s the same number that’s present currently on West Main Road alone.


Interestingly, if the Middletown Center project gets the necessary approvals, it will be the first municipal project part of the March 2008 announcement from the Navy to move forward. 

Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/5845/NYCU-MC-Negotiations


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