Newport City: Former Renaissance Block Banners Are Down
City employees last week took down the banners along the fence around the razed block on Main Street.
The banners, featuring images of the old block and mention of the now defunct Renaissance Block, are being stored for future use, according to city Manager Laura Dolgin.
The intent was to remove the name “Renaissance” from the block that is vacant and was once expected to be the place where Bill Stenger and partner Ariel Quiros were going to build a four-story hotel and retail complex.
But state and federal lawsuits alleging misuse of $200 million in EB-5 foreign investments and Quiros taking $50 million have dashed plans for the hotel and a bio-tech plant at the former Bogner plant site on Lake Road.
A court-appointed receiver granted permission to city Mayor Paul Monette to do whatever needed to be done to the fence and to prepare for future sale of the property. The fence is on city property.
Not everyone was pleased to see the banners come down.
Neighbor and former Newport Zoning Administrator Paul Dreher questioned the thinking behind the removal and who had authority to remove the banners, which were designed by a committee with Newport City Renaissance Corp. working with Stenger and his team.
The banners included photographs from the Cartee Collection and MAC Center for the Arts in Newport City. There were plans for other fence art work to go on the block.
On Monday evening, Monette said the banners were taken down with the permission of the receiver to both remove a vision of what the property might have been and will not be and to protect the portion of the banners that depict the history of the lot.
There was concern that some would be damaged if left up. There are “many beautiful parts,” Monette said.
The banners belong to the receiver, which controls the property for the court, and is in storage in the city.
Some of the banners may be retrofitted to be used if something positive can come out of it, Monette said.
On Monday afternoon, Dolgin told Dreher in an email that the city did not want to see the valuable banners damaged and are stored safely. Other parts of the banners are outdated, representing a “sorry” chapter in the block’s history.
A new temporary safe fence cover is expected to be put up which will still allow views of the cellar walls and green grass in the razed block from Second, Central and Main streets.
The receiver, Michael Goldberg, has authority to sell the former Spates block at any time. It was purchased with EB-5 funds by GSI of Dade County, a company owned by Quiros, which makes it part of his responsibility.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said last week that there are out-of-state and Canadian potential buyers.
“Both (Agency of Commerce) Secretary Pat Moulton and Michael Goldberg have received inquiries from people interested in doing something with the hole in downtown Newport,” Shumlin said.
“We are working together to expedite that, as soon as we can find a real project that would be of benefit to the city.”
Shumlin and Goldberg said last week that the city could make changes to the fence, including taking down the banners.
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