Newport city commissioners are poised to approve the issuance of $200 million in revenue bonds that would go toward the purchase and renovations of Newport on the Levee. The city is acting as a pass-through entity.
City Manager Tom Fromme says that's not uncommon. "The city is merely a conduit," he explains. "We actually have no obligation if the developer would default on a bond, which we've never experienced in my history with the city. The city is not obligated to make payments on the bond." He says the bonds have to be issued in the city's name.
Fromme says North American Properties is buying Newport on the Levee, for $100 million, with plans to spend as much as another $100 million on renovations. He says that investment will be a "refreshening and reimagining" of the Levee.
He says that includes plans to build on the vacant space next to the Newport Aquarium. "They also have plans to open up the entrance way to make it more inviting and to integrate it more with Monmouth Street, perhaps even adding another ingress and egress from the garage off of the valet circle that's there."
The Levee brings in about $800,000 a year in revenue to the city, Fromme says. "So we're looking at growing that exponentially in the next several years, with new businesses and new office users. I would look at that growing as much as $400-500,000 over the next several years."
Newport commissioners committed to the bond issue at a meeting in September. Fromme says a special meeting on Monday afternoon is a "bookkeeping measure."
"The Levee's been a critical component of the city's rebirth and will continue to be a major part of the city's progress as we move into the future," Fromme says.