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Guest Post: A Trip to Newport; The Breakers Welcome Center

breakers

The Breakers in Newport

An anonymous reader is taking the readers of Greater City Providence to Newport and laying out the proposal set forth by the Preservation Society of Newport County to construct a permanent welcome center on the grounds of the landmark property, The Breakers.

The city of Newport has long been the center of tourism for Rhode Island and much of southern New England. Known for its sandy beaches, sailing, historic architecture spanning three centuries, superb dining, art galleries, and historic landmarks, the city by the sea has welcomed millions seeking to explore, learn, relax, and to enjoy themselves. Tourism is on the rise and museums are in the midst of creating world-class visitor centers meant to provide the proper introduction to an institute, property, or collection. In late August 2012, an article published by the Newport Daily News announced plans by the Preservation Society of Newport County to construct a 3700 sq ft ‘welcome center’ on the grounds of The Breakers. Plans were not yet finalized; however, the Preservation Society had announced that the architectural firm of Epstein-Joslin of Cambridge, MA had been chosen to design a structure that would fit into the historic grove and landscape of the organization’s flagship property.

The intent is to clear away unsightly and temporary structures that house a ticketing venue, seasonal portable toilets, and a vending machine and replace them with a permanent structure. The new structure will house restrooms, café, and ticketing venue.

As the flagship property, The Breakers receives roughly half of the visitor attendance that the Society will see annually and collectively in a collection of eleven historic properties. That equals to nearly 400,000 visitors out of 800,000 that will tour the great mansion built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893-1895. The Breakers is one of the top five most-visited house museums in America, among the notables: Biltmore, Monticello, and Mount Vernon. The Preservation Society is also one of the top four major cultural organizations in New England with the other three in Boston; the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Comparing to other institutions, the accommodations at The Breakers is subpar.

The proposal, as announced, sparked a wave of letters sent to the Newport Daily News, Newport This Week, and the Providence Journal. Most were against the proposal in various tones, fearing business would be lost at area establishments that are dependent on tourism traffic to the mansions on Bellevue Avenue, while others pointed at historic preservation and the thought of the fabric of the landscape being forever ruined. Whatever the case may be, there are many reasons to not build a visitor center period, especially on the grounds of the mansion.

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2012 Rhode Island statewide ballot questions

election-2012-newlogo

We ran down the list of 11 City of Providence ballot questions in a previous post, here are the statewide questions on the November 6th ballot.

Update: All statewide ballot questions passed however, voters in Newport rejected a casino at Newport Grand.
Find further details about each ballot question and information on how to vote in the Rhode Island Voter Information Handbook 2012

QUESTION 1:

1. STATE CONSTITUTIONAL APPROVAL
(APPROVAL OF AN ACT AUTHORIZING STATE-OPERATED CASINO GAMING AT TWIN RIVER IN THE TOWN OF LINCOLN)

(Section 22 of Article VI of the Constitution)

Shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Twin River” in the town of Lincoln to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?

APPROVE
REJECT


QUESTION 2:

2. STATE CONSTITUTIONAL APPROVAL
(APPROVAL OF AN ACT AUTHORIZING STATE-OPERATED CASINO GAMING AT NEWPORT GRAND IN THE CITY OF NEWPORT)

(Section 22 of Article VI of the Constitution)

Shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Newport Grand” in the city of Newport to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?

APPROVE
REJECT

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News & Notes

Dallas Covers Highway with Greenery – Cities are increasingly decking highways with piles of greenery and new development. [Governing]

I’m looking at Route 10 at Olneyville, Route 95 from Broad to Atwells, Route 95 between Garden and George in Pawtucket, Route 95 next to the State House…

Parking Management That Actually Manages Parking [Bill Fulton, Mayor of Ventura Blog]

Some shoppers have complained over the past few months that parking at the mall is free, so why should they pay to park downtown? The answer — provided by Downtown Ventura Organization board chair Dave Armstrong — is that you’re paying for access to a few hundred premium spaces. And he’s right. After all, all the mall parking spaces are far away from the stores — farther than even the most remote free lot downtown. If it was possible to drive right inside the mall and park in front of your favorite store, don’t you think the mall would charge for that space? And don’t you think some people who think it’s worth it would pay the price? Obviously, the answer to both these questions is yes.

A Portland group pulverizes pavement to make way for green space [Grist]

Newport: Making Transportation Holistic [RI Future]

On September 15th, the Newport City Council passed a Complete Streets resolution, becoming the first municipality in Rhode Island to give equal consideration to all road users in its planning rather than giving primacy to automobiles. Redesigning our streets to be more inclusive of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders will be a boon to our quality of life by improving the environment, the local economy, and our health.

Dearest Providence, why are we letting Newport take the lead on this? Step it up!

Nissan’s smug (?), cute (?), ironic (?) polar bear Leaf ad [Grist]

But let’s take a look at the claim that climate-endangered mammals will thank you for buying a Leaf — which goes on sale later this year for as low as $21,000 in California and Georgia, and slightly more in other states.

An electric car might be superior to the gas-burner you own now, except that it still takes plenty of embodied energy to produce a new car. If buying a Leaf earns you a bear hug, then hanging on to a reasonably efficient ride for a few extra years probably deserves one too.

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News & Notes

Preserving modernism in Boston: making the case [Boston.com]

Andrew Knee: Milwaukee – A Walker’s Paradise [UrbanOut]
“And the latest venture is a broad swath of land called the Park East, where a freeway was recently torn down and the street-grid was reassembled.”

Sound wall made of vegetation to be studied by ODOT as alternative to concrete wall [Cleveland.com]
I’m thinking of Route 195 in the Gano Street area.

London Opens Bike “Superhighways” [GOOD]

Worst. Intersection. Ever. [Car-Free in PVD]

Sen. Kerry docks yacht in R.I., saves on taxes [MSNBC]
Yes, the story has gone national. The Senator’s people claim the boat is in Newport for “for long-term maintenance, upkeep and charter purposes.” Whatever, I just like the headline telling rich people to come to Rhode Island for our low taxes. Bring your yachts and spend some money while your here.

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News & Notes

2 year closure of Union Avenue Bridge over Route 10 prompts free RIPTA service for pedestrians impacted by closure [ProJo]. With Route 18 only running 17 times on weekdays and not at all on Sundays and Holidays, I’m glad I don’t live on the farside of Union Avenue.

Four Projects to Watch (And Seven Others to Remember) [NewportNow]

Not About the Buildings Spelling Bee June 21st, AS220.

City panel to decide on rezoning Allens Avenue [PBN]

Topological crime maps of San Franscisco [Strange Maps]

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Reader Submissions: Shorpy.com


November 1912. Central Falls, Rhode Island. View of privies, garbage dumps, etc., in back yards near Bed-bug Alley and High Street. Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine for the Child Welfare Exhibit of 1912-13. via: Shorpy.com

A reader sent me some links from a site I hadn’t heard of, Shorpy.com. Shorpy.com describes itself as, “History in HD is a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.”

All of the photos on the site are interesting, and there are some from Rhode Island. Though these are not your typical photos of a hazy glorified yesteryear. In fact, most of these photos highlight child labor in the mills of Rhode Island around the turn of the last century. Something that we don’t look back on very often.

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RIPTA Ferry, FINALLY!

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Barring some other crazy unforeseen circumstance, RIPTA’s Newport-Providence “water taxi” service is a go for tomorrow.

The service will feature 5 roundtrips per day between Providence Piers (180 Allens Avenue) and Perrotti Park in Newport. The 50 passenger water taxi is smaller than the ferry used for last year’s service. The water taxi does not have a snack bar or rest room facilities (so make sure you go before you go). Due to the loss of the federal subsidy, the fares will also increase to $28 roundtrip for adults.

Service will operate through October. Fare and schedule information at: RIPTA.

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You can haz RIPTA Ferry!

RIPTA Ferry

ProJo reports that we will have ferry service between Newport and Providence this summer after-all.

Dubbed the Providence-Newport Water Taxi on RIPTA’s website the service will use a smaller vessel than we’ve become used to. The 46-passenger catamaran will be operated by Ocean State Shipbuilding Inc. of Brooklyn, Connecticut (why Ocean State Shipbuilding is based in the Nutmeg State… I do not know). The company has no experience running a ferry service, but won the bid due to not requiring a state subsidy.

The smaller ferry (the prior ferry carried 149 passengers) will make the trip in the same amount of time, however it will only run 5 round trips per day from June to September (and drops to 3 trips per day through the end of the season in October).

Though the service is smaller, I am happy we’ve not lost it all together, and even more happy that a way has been found to run the ferry and not take money from RIPTA’s bus service (which would be a non-starter for me). Still, I can’t help to again point out how short sighted it was for us to be in this position. The ~$500,000 federal subsidy that made the ferry possible to begin with was always slated to end, it is disappointing that RIPTA had no plan on what to do when that eventuality finally came to pass.

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You can get there from here?

RIPTA Ferry

Could the Providence-Newport Ferry rise from the dead and return to service this summer? RIPTA is hoping to make it work. As the Journal reports, RIPTA has issued two RFPs. One asks ferry companies to bid for a no-subsidy service. Likely this would be fewer trips and a shorter season than we are used to. The other RFP asks ferry companies to quote what subsidy they would need to provide the previous level of service.

RIPTA announced last year that the ferry would not return this summer due to the end of a half million dollar federal subsidy. At the time I said it was rather short sited of RIPTA not to plan for the end of a subsidy that clearly had an end date. I also questioned how there could be absolutely no way to find a half million dollars to make up for the lost subsidy (of course this was before the economy ‘sploded).

I don’t know where RIPTA is hoping to find the funds for the subsidized RFP, but I hope they can make it work. The ferry was a vital piece of our tourist economy and it is madness for the Ocean State to not have a public ferry service utilizing Narragansett Bay.

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You can’t get there from here

RIPTA Ferry

Bad news, RIPTA’s Providence/Newport fast ferry service will end October 16, 2008, for good. RIPTA reports in their January 31st Destinations eNewsletter that the service will end do to the expiration of federal funds.

Federal Funding Made Ferry Possible

“We’re proud that we were able to secure federal funding for three consecutive three-year grant cycles, $575,000 annually for a total of $5,175,000.00,” said RIPTA General Manager Alfred J. Moscola in a recent letter to community leaders.

This funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act/Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Program (CMAQ), allowing RIPTA to provide this service for almost a decade.

Under the terms of its federal funding, the ferry was to serve as a demonstration project whose purposes were to test, measure and determine the demand for water ferry transportation, help reduce the pollution caused by automobiles and encourage economic development. These terms will be fulfilled in 2008.

Service Helped Reduce Traffic Congestion and Air Pollution and Boost Economic Development

“We’ve been very pleased to see the positive reception with which RIPTA’s Providence/Newport ferry service has been greeted over the years by residents and tourists as well as by community leaders,” said Moscola.

“Ferry ridership increased every season and communities up and down the state’s coastline sought to have the ferry add stops in their towns. Pollution and traffic congestion were reduced as people chose to take the ferry rather than their cars over Narragansett Bay. And economic development was encouraged because the ferry helped strengthen tourism,” he explained.

“We were also proud to receive the Governor’s Tourism Award for Newport County in 2001, in large measure due to our Providence/Newport ferry service,” added Moscola.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to renew our federal funding for the ferry service and without it there’s no way we can continue this terrific service,” says Moscola.

So this announcement seems rather abrupt and matter-of-fact. One has to wonder why there was no plan for the end of the demonstration period. The funding was to test, measure, and determine demand for water transportation, ridership was up year after year… OK, so it seems there is demand and 9 years should have given us plenty of time to measure it and figure out how to provide it. Indeed the state budget is in the toilet, but there is no way to come up with $575,000 to continue service? Did anyone even try? Is this again RIPTA using the media to lob a bomb at the Governor (that’s getting really boring)?

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