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Sailing Hall of Fame chooses Newport

Published on October 16th, 2018

Annapolis, MD (October 16, 2018) – Barring last-minute discovery of deal-breaking structural or environmental damage, the National Sailing Hall of Fame is relocating from Annapolis, MD to a historic armory in Newport, RI.

The hall’s board of directors voted 17-9 this afternoon in favor of proceeding with its deal to purchase space in the Armory Building for $1.685 million. The hall’s “checklist” includes inspecting the site for mold, asbestos, structural or environmental issues, said hall president Gary Jobson.

The deadline for completing a deal with Newport is Nov. 8. Jobson said the vote total wasn’t ambiguous.

“That’s a strong statement in favor of Newport,” he said.

Jobson said the hall will spend about $4 million to buy, renovate, furnish and install exhibits in the Newport property. He estimates renovating the space will cost $1.25-$1.5 million. That includes installing sprinklers, new flooring and new windows. It will cost another $1 million to get the site ready to open.

It will take about a year to renovate the armory. The hall’s lease with the state in the Captain Burtis House on City Dock expires Feb. 24, 2020.

In a meeting yesterday with Capital Gazette’s editorial board, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the state wants to surplus the property so it can be sold. Jobson said the site was valued at $3.1 million in 2017 county assessment.

A spokeswoman for Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the city will not relinquish its title as the Sailing Capital of the World. Buckley presented a plan to keep the hall of fame on City Dock to the state but was not able to derail the Newport plan which surfaced in late 2017. Jobson made a presentation to the Newport City Council in October 2017.

Buckley was elected mayor the next month. Susan O’Brien, Buckley’s spokeswoman, said the hall of fame’s outreach programs have enabled children and adults to experience sailing. She said the city and its residents would benefit if those programs remain.

“We’ll continue to be the Sailing Capital of the world,” O’Brien said. “We hope the programs the Sailing Hall of Fame offered that gave everyone a chance to get on the water will continue.”

Source: Capital Gazette

Newport, RI (October 16, 2018) – Gary Jobson, the executive director of the hall of fame, said the Sailing Hall of Fame hopes to welcome visitors at its new location in the Armory building by May 2020, before the summer tourist season begins.

The 26-member board of directors of the National Sailing Hall of Fame of Annapolis, Maryland, voted 17-9 this afternoon to relocate the hall of fame to the Armory building in Newport.

All board members were on a teleconference call for 1 hour and 45 minutes during which members asked questions before the vote, Gary Jobson, the hall of fame’s executive director, told The Daily News soon after the vote.

The Newport City Council approved on Aug. 8 a purchase-and-sales agreement to sell most of the Armory on lower Thames Street to the Sailing Hall of Fame.

Under the agreement, the Sailing Hall of Fame has 90 days, until Nov. 8, to undertake “due diligence” that includes reviewing liabilities such as possible asbestos, mold and other items, Jobson said.

He said the Sailing Hall of Fame would enter into a contract with Newport to purchase the Armory on or before Nov. 8, before the actual closing takes place.

“It’s like buying a house,” Jobson said.

“We already have a contract, the purchase-and-sales agreement,” said City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr., in response to Jobson’s comments. “If they are ready to close on Nov. 8, we’ll be there.”

Nicholson welcomed the vote by the Sailing Hall of Fame directors.

“It’s a positive move,” he said. “It’s good news.”

The takeover of the building by the hall of fame would displace the existing Armory Antique Marketplace.

Under the purchase-and-sales agreement, the hall of fame will pay the city $1.685 million for the main floor and second floor of the Armory at 365 Thames St., which will be transferred to the Sailing Hall of Fame as “Condominium Unit B” and added to the property tax rolls of the city. The hall of fame will use the space as a not-for-profit museum, the agreement says.

The city will retain ownership of the Newport Maritime Center in the basement, “Condominium Unit A,” which is level with the beach area in the back, under a condominium agreement approved by the parties last month.

Nicholson has recommended the beach area be dedicated for the use of the public in much the same way as various city parks have been dedicated to be used in perpetuity by the public.

The Ann Street Pier behind the Armory and the Ann Street right-of-way just to the north of the Armory are on separate parcels and remain under the city’s ownership, Nicholson has said.

The Sailing Hall of Fame will spend another $1.5 million to add a deck and windows at the back of the Armory, repair the roof and make other building upgrades, Jobson said.

“The Buyer agrees that the Buyer will not make any changes, improvements or alterations to the exterior of the Armory building without the written approval of the State Historical Preservation Officer …,” the agreement says.

However, the Sailing Hall of Fame will be allowed to make alterations similar to those approved by the state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission in October 2008. At the time, the city received permission to install a window overlooking the harbor at the back of the building on the main floor, as well as a deck.

The agreement requires the Sailing Hall of Fame to keep the Armory restrooms accessible to the public, as they are now.

Jobson said another $1 million would be spent on interactive displays and a small theater for the upcoming sailing museum. He said the Sailing Hall of Fame hopes to welcome visitors at its new location in Newport by May 2020, before the summer tourist season begins.

Jobson has said the first discussions about moving to Newport began in March 2017, and Mayor Harry Winthrop first publicly floated the idea of bringing the hall to Newport in August of that year.

Winthrop was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Asked if the public process has seemed long to him, Jobson said, “My long haul began in 2013, when I was named executive director of the Sailing Hall of Fame.”

The National Sailing Hall of Fame has been trying for more than a decade to build a museum at the site of the historic Captain Burtis House at City Dock in Annapolis. It has been leasing offices in the house, which is very small, about 1,400 square feet, and on a small parcel of land, Jobson has said.

The hall of fame initially had proposed constructing a new building in Annapolis that would cost $9.5 million. But it 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, Jobson has said.

Armory Antique Marketplace, which represents more than 70 dealers who have retail space in the main hall of the Armory, will be required at some point to vacate the premises. Tony Zaloumis and Cindy Lee are co-owners of the 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 the hall of fame have been strongly supportive of the antiques vendors and their employees. 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. The National Guard and Naval Reserve later used it, but the state conveyed the Armory to the Redevelopment Agency of Newport on Dec. 20, 1983, according to a deed on file with the city’s Land Evidence Office. The Redevelopment Agency conveyed the property to the city on April 2, 2010, a second deed on file states.

Under the deeds, the state has the right of first refusal to buy back the property, but city officials have said the state has no desire to purchase it and to take on the repairs. Nicholson has asked the state Department of Administration to confirm that in writing before the sale to the Sailing Hall of Fame takes place.


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