On April 24, voters in North Kingstown will have the opportunity to decide on the sale of the vacant Town Hall Annex Building on Brown Street. The town issued a request for proposal in the fall of 2017, for which there was one response/proposal from Ms. Eve Clulow, who offered to buy the building and a much smaller portion of the current plat/lot. Almost all of the land to the east and south, as well as associated parking spaces and the public restrooms, will remain with the town. Additionally, Ms. Clulow has agreed that the purchase-and-sales agreement will include a clause that the Town will have the “right of first refusal” should the owner ever decide to sell, and that the building’s facade will be included in a deed restriction.
Ms. Clulow’s offer, and vision, is to preserve this historic building and provide Wickford with a venue for the public that can be used for a variety of purposes such as performing arts, dining and private and public functions, and, in general, serve as the cultural anchor for North Kingstown. Over the years, she and her business partners have developed the requisite skills and understand how to bring this type of project to fruition (her family purchased and fully restored the Vernon House, which was Gen. Rochambeau’s headquarters during the American Revolution).
This Annex was, until 1975, the town’s library, so that theme will be incorporated into interior design. The first floor will have an open lobby and bar area, a small kitchen and a 50-seat theater. The second floor will have an open area that can accommodate a number of different entertainment layouts.
North Kingstown owns several municipal buildings that have long been vacant (Town Hall, Wickford Elementary, the Annex building and others), and all are in dire need of repair. At present, none of these buildings provides any tax revenue, nor any utility whatsoever to the residents of North Kingstown. We all know the outcome of continued delay. This will only get worse. With respect to the Brown Street Annex, we have an opportunity here to improve upon our vacant municipal building problem by turning this building into a cultural hub that we can all be very proud of and that will generate, for the first time, significant sales and tax revenue.
The North Kingstown Republican Party strongly believes in taking an active role in managing and developing municipal buildings. The sale of this building to a person who has the vision and the pockets deep enough (nearly $2 million in repairs and upgrades) to honor the historical legacy and architectural integrity of this once grand building is a win for all. I believe this developer has presented a wonderful opportunity to the town, but ultimately, voters have the right to determine the disposition of this building. I ask you to vote to approve this sale at the April 24 referendum.
The author is a retired Navy commander and a member of the North Kingstown Republican Town Committee, North Kingstown Zoning Board of Review and Sewer Appeals Board.