To the editor:
Recently a Phoenix editorial focused on the Naval Armory’s conversion to a Maritime Center and the news that Bristol had received an $860,000 grant (matched by the town) for the restoration and renovation of the building. It claimed it would be a bad investment.
Last Thursday, Oct.r 10, “Explore Bristol” had an update meeting for all those who volunteer their time to “Working Groups” designed to make Bristol a better place to visit, work, live and raise a family. About 100 business owners, non-profit organizations and museum leaders, town councilors, town commissioners, etc. were present to learn the results of their efforts over the past 10 months and to hear the prospects for the future. Lou Hammond, a marketing expert whose firm has been hired to manage this effort, spoke about what a wonderful town Bristol is and how all involved had supported her company’s efforts and contributed to the outstanding results.
Many positives were presented, including the significant increases in bed and meal tax revenues that come directly to Bristol, as well as the positive coverage Bristol is getting in national magazines, e.g., New York Magazine. Throughout the evening, the opportunities presented by our waterfront was repeated over and over again as an untapped resource that can produce significant business and municipal income in the coming years. It was universally touted by all present as one of the critical areas that we need to work on improving and growing. The recent “Visions for Bristol” forum involving 150 Bristol residents echoed these same sentiments.
So, now I return to the Phoenix Editorial mentioned in my opening paragraph. I trust that most readers of the Phoenix remember it. It’s the one that said the renovation/restoration of the Armory into a Maritime Center was a bad decision and that a better use of the property would be to knock it down and make it a parking lot … yes, a parking lot … turn some of the most valuable waterfront property in beautiful downtown Bristol into a PARKING LOT!
Clearly the editors haven’t got a clue! They claimed that the recently built Newport Maritime Center is underutilized, without knowing anything about the long-term projections for that facility. They didn’t inquire about the year-long study done by Explore Bristol’s Marine Working Group or the Maritime Advisory Group, the work of Bristol’s Director of Community Development, Diane Williamson, and the many others who partnered with Roger Williams University Adjunct Professor Hank Kniskern (who worked for years on the Newport Maritime Center as a member of Newport’s Harbor Commission) and the six talented students from Roger Williams University’s marketing, accounting and architecture departments.
This long-term analysis evaluated the sustainability of a Maritime Center in the Armory and found it not only to be viable but to contribute significantly to Bristol’s future economic development.
It’s very disappointing to me, one of the many who worked for about a year on this project, that the editorial staff of the Phoenix would “take a pot shot” at the project without any factual basis. Maybe one of the editors went to the Newport Maritime Center a few times this summer and found it “under-utilized” and determined that his personal, anecdotal experience had greater value than the efforts of the many talented and committed Bristol residents who invested considerable time and talent to bring the project to the point where Bristol EARNED an $860,000 grant to support the concept.
Perhaps the editorial staff just likes to “take pot shots” in order to sell newspapers and for no other purpose that actually contributes to the success of our community.
E. Keith Maloney 60 Van Wickle Lane
To the editor: