Newport to vote on Sailing Hall of Fame

Published on July 12th, 2018

Newport, RI (July 12, 2018) – The Newport City Council vote on whether the city should sell the Armory on Thames Street to the National Sailing Hall of Fame will take place on July 25, according to Mayor Harry Winthrop in

“I think it is a tremendous opportunity for the city to have a second hall of fame located here, along with the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Winthrop said. “It’s an ideal use of the property and will give us the economic value from it that we have been looking for since the city took it over in 2010. We have been subsidizing the property to the tune of about $100,000 a year.”

The City Council voted 4-3 on April 11 to move forward with the possible sale of the Armory, after hearing from opponents and supporters of the deal in a packed City Hall council chamber.

A three-page “letter of interest” at the time outlined the conditions of the sale to be negotiated and finalized. The city would sell the first and second floors of the building to the Hall of Fame for $1.685 million.

The letter of interest said the city intended to divide the building into two condominiums, with the Sailing Hall of Fame owning the main assembly hall on the first floor that is level with Thames Street and the second floor.

The city would retain clear ownership of the Newport Maritime Center at the basement level, which fronts the harbor shoreline, and the beach. The Ann Street Pier at the Armory is on a separate lot, as well as the Ann Street right of way, and they would remain under city ownership.

Winthrop, council Vice President Lynn Underwood Ceglie and council members Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and Marco Camacho voted to approve the letter of interest that was drawn up by the city administration. Council members Kathryn Leonard, Jamie Bova and Susan Taylor voted for different reasons against the proposed deal.

Leonard argued the city should have put out a request for proposals for the Armory and advertised it widely, to explore whether there were possible buyers with a better deal.

Bova and Taylor agreed the Armory status quo is not sustainable, but Bova, supported by Taylor, argued the council should first take a vote to divest of the Armory before approving a letter of interest with a specific buyer.

The details of the new purchase-and-sales agreement will be released July 18, when the council docket is publicized one week before the scheduled meeting.

Winthrop first floated the idea of bringing the National Sailing Hall of Fame to Newport in August 2017. The Hall had been trying for more than a decade to build a museum at the site of the Captain Burtis House at City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland. The Hall of Fame now has offices in the house, which is very small and is on a small parcel of land, according to Gary Jobson, president of the National Sailing Hall of Fame’s board of directors.

Jobson first made his pitch to the council to bring the Hall of Fame here on Oct. 18, 2017, when the council chamber was packed with residents and interested parties.

The National Sailing Hall of Fame initially had proposed constructing a new building in Annapolis that would cost $9.5 million, Jobson said at the time. But the Hall of Fame only had about $2.1 million in cash assets as of late 2017, with some of that targeted for other expenses. The board had not been able to raise the money or financing needed for the Annapolis project, he said.

Armory Antique Marketplace, which represents more than 70 dealers who have retail space in the main hall of the Armory, would be required to vacate the premises if the sale goes through. Tony Zaloumis and Cindy Lee are co-owners of Armory Antique Marketplace that has held the master lease for the Armory first floor and main hall since the beginning of 2013.

Some of the opponents to selling to the Hall of Fame have been strongly supportive of the vendors and employees of the Armory. When the employees and people who place items on consignment in the Armory are counted, more than 150 people could lose their livelihood, according to marketplace management.

The Armory was built in 1894 for local militia, according to a history of the property included with past city bid documents.

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