The 84-room hotel will be built on the same lot where Newport Yachting Center tent once stood. It will feature a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, 3,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 square feet of office space.
NEWPORT — The groundbreaking for the new 84-room Hammetts Wharf Hotel on America’s Cup Avenue will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 23, beginning at 10 a.m.
“We’re excited,” said Colin Kane, one of the principals of developer Peregrine Group along with Sam Bradner.
Kane said Monday he had been waiting to finalize a date for the ceremony so Gov. Gina Raimondo could attend.
“The governor and her team played a big part in making this project happen,” he said.
The Rhode Island Commerce Corp. board voted in July to approve .5 million in tax breaks, known as tax-increment financing, to close a gap in the financing for the project. The tax reductions will be spread over 10 years and applied only after the hotel owners pay taxes each year.
Kane said Monday the project will require an almost 9 million investment by Peregrine, which is based in East Providence.
Construction will continue until May 2020, with interruptions for winter weather and for the Newport International Boat Show that will take place in September 2019.
“We’ll be opening in time for the high tourist season in 2020,” Kane said.
Research of the property showed it historically had been called Hammetts Wharf since colonial times and was the site of multiple businesses over the years, including Hammetts Lumber, he said. There was no apostrophe in the name and the developers will keep it that way, he said.
Peregrine’s affiliate company, Scott’s Wharf LLC, purchased the 4-acre property just north of Perry Mill from the Newport Harbor Corp. in November 2014 for an undisclosed price, ending the concerts, comedy shows and festivals that formerly took place at the Newport Yachting Center.
The hotel will sit on a 1.7-acre parcel of the property where the entertainment tent formerly was located. The developers have argued the hotel and surrounding landscaping now are replacing two large, unattractive parking lots.
The rest of the downtown Peregrine site also includes a marina, The Bohlin banquet and wedding venue, Mooring Restaurant and Smokehouse Cafe. All those business will remain.
Architect Douglas Kallfelz of Union Studio Architecture & Community Design in Providence designed the coming hotel that features a building with three defined segments and an archway on the first floor on America’s Cup Avenue. The archway will lead to a terrace that will be open to the public. The deck will provide a view of the waterfront.
Over the past summer, Kane and Bradner worked with the state Coastal Resources Management Council on guidelines that require coastal developments to include sea-level rise and other climate-change projections in their applications.
Peregrine has installed a stormwater treatment system on the site that prevents untreated water from discharging into the harbor.
“We’ve made some other engineering modifications in connection with handling stormwater, but no building design changes were required by CRMC,” Kane said.
“We’ve been through so many agencies,” he said.
It was about three years ago when he and Bradner began talking to nearby residents and businesses about the proposed hotel, Kane said.
After hearings before the city’s Planning Board, the board members recommended approval in July 2017 under the city’s comprehensive land-use plan, but said public access to the waterfront should be protected.
The city’s Zoning Board of Review approved the project in November 2017 after multiple hearings. At that time, the developers explained why a smaller hotel on the site would not be financially feasible.
The plans also call for a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, 3,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 square feet of office space.
The project has 166 parking spaces, including 60 spaces beneath the hotel, but the parking is on two separate lots, one on the other side of Commercial Wharf. That required a variance from the zoning board and caused a lot of discussion.
The board said the owners must designate 87 of those parking spaces: one for each hotel room and three for employees. However, if the hotel is not fully booked, the parking spaces can be provided to other guests.
Board members granted the plan’s approval under the condition the owners file an agreement in the city’s land evidence office that allows the public “perpetual” access to the waterfront over the hotel land on a public walkway.
The walkway must be open to the public from dawn to dusk June 1 to Oct. 15, and from 8 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. in the remaining months. After initial concerns, the local Friends of the Waterfront group did not formally object to the project after the developers agreed to establish the public pedestrian path, with hours similar to the existing public harbor walk.
Kane and Bradner also have said they would create a seasonal skating rink just to the north of the hotel, continuing the years-long tradition of having a skating rink on the Newport Yachting Center property.