Monday, December 2, 2013

Newport Pipe Dreams or the "Pot O'Gold"?


By Manfried Rieder 

In a recent Newport Daily Express issue Marcia Horne of Derby posed a number of questions and objections regarding the planned EB-5 developments for the greater Newport area. She has a great grasp of the issues involved but my question is:
Cui bono /kwˈbn/ "to whose benefit?", literally "as a benefit to whom?" The answer has to be Mr. Stenger and his investors and in my opinion it will not be, cannot be if critically examined, the towns of Newport or Burke or surroundings.
Let me begin with the Renaissance block downtown: This is possibly needed as the area is seedy and run-down. But if it is not done with taste and in an architectural style which enhances the Newport heritage, we would be better of reconstructing the existing buildings as they at least have some historical value and could be reconstructed to blend with the existing motif of our downtown district. In a recent article I voiced the opinion that the new development will not bring the promised new jobs because all the good jobs will be had by people re-locating here with the proposed tenant companies and the available jobs will be secretarial, maintenance and other low level positions and will pay no more than existing jobs in the area which our current pool of almost 11% unemployment should be able to absorb if people were willing to work in the first place.
The proposed waterfront development will not succeed for the simple reason that there is not enough money to be made from the rental of dockage space and hotel rooms. We do not have enough attractions here to bring the amount of people into town to fill the hotel and to make the marina prosper in the short summer season we have. Consider the cost of razing the existing structures, the cost of construction and labor to staff and maintain those great visions and you will easily find that the debt load necessary to build all this holy grail can not be supported by income. I have spoken to hotel owners across the state, from Burlington to Stowe, Stratton mountain and the other highly taunted tourist areas and they are lucky to have a 62% occupancy throughout the year. Simple arythmatic allows us to extrapolate that this new hotel complex in Newport with nothing to offer than a handful of restaurants, a fine lake with more than enough underused mooring facilities and no planning to make it any more attractive will not be able to last.
Let's face it folks - this is a pipe-dream. The only way Newport will make itself more prosperous is if me start doing things the old fashioned way: We have to offer people reasons to come to us. I see absolutely no effort being made in bringing attractions here or to engage the local talent to be more than mediocre. We could have a huge outdoor art festival in the park (I organized one in Montreal for many years and it brought thousands to an otherwise unused park in Notre Dame de Grace and made tons of money for the community). We could have a Jazz festival, a Shakespeare-in-the-park event, we could have a huge city wide sale where all the businesses would put stuff outside at reduced prices and get the people in and if we have some great street musicians to support that and a good hot dog stand, we'll be in business. These are all stand-byes that work for neighboring Sutton, Quebec or Knowlton. But they work. Our downtown is a wasteland but it could be a jewel but as long as our local idiots only listen to million dollar pipe dreams, the small things, the building blocks of a tourist industry, will not ever come to fruition.
Newport is beautiful and it actually has the potential to be the crown jewel; of Vermont but it will not happen by enriching some Chinese guys (or taking their money with the prospect of eventual riches). It can only happen if there is a civic understanding of what we can do with available resources, showcasing the existing businesses instead of undermining them and only if there is an administrative body in place which is not bedazzled by the glorious vision of Futurama but has an old fashioned Vermont grasp of reality, of values received and repaid, of things that can be done without a jet airport or helicopters or Governor Shumlin grovelling in Asia.
My vision of Newport would be that of a town of artists, of music festivals which can be brought to town, of a vibrant street culture, of bright boutiques in the downtrodden downtown which could easily be reconstructed, of an international film festival, new exiting bike paths which could be advertised internationally, like I did for the town of Sutton, which now has almost as many bikers in Summer that it has skiers in winter.
And on the lake we could have an annual opera festival like Bregenz, Austria. We already have the boardwalk, the Gateway etc. All we need is a barge and a willing opera company and we would be in business and the area would be recognized for all those easily accomplished things that only take vision and no big international investments.

I am game to help with any or all of the above and anyone willing to make this Our Newport is encouraged to contact me anytime either at:
or by letter or telephone to:


No comments:

Post a Comment