By Tom Shevlin
UPDATE: Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation Executive Director David McCurdy said on Monday that after speaking with the city, the organization has agreed to a month-to-month lease that will ensure the Armory Antiques Center's continued operation through the month of October.
As for what happens after October, that's yet to be determined, says McCurdy. However, he is hopeful that the RILF will be able to maintain its second-story office space at the building regardless of what happens with the antiques center.
NEWPORT -- Just days after City Council members signed off on a 9-month lease with the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation to operate the Lower Thames Street Armory, the organization announced that it's decided to shutter the antiques center at the end of the month.
In an email sent early Friday afternoon, RILF said "RILF Armory Antiques will permanently cease retail operations at the end of the business day on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. A lease resolution enacted by the City of Newport on July 25th leaves us with no other option."
It went on, "We thank our many customers, vendors, employees and friends who have supported us through this difficult year, and deeply regret the inconvenience that this action is causing you."
The lease, which had originally called for a 15-month agreement with monthly rent set at $5,000 per month for the summer and $3,000 for the months of November through April, was amended by councilors on Wednesday, who asked for a 9-month lease with uniform lease payments of $5,000 per month.
City Manager Jane Howington said that she was "perplexed" by the decision and that she hadn't been in touch with the RILF. But, Howington said, she has been in contact with several vendors at the antiques center, and offered them the option of remaining open at least through August.
Who might manage any future operation remains to be seen.
"None of the councilors, or myself, have any interest in seeing the building vacant," Howington said. "It wasn't ever our intent to try to kick people out."
It is, however, the city's plan to attempt to redevelop the building. As Howington noted, a series of charettes are being planned for over the winter to possibly come up with a long-term plan to redevelop the property.
And while the council's decision to amend the terms of the contract may have taken the RILF off guard, the non-profit's decision to shutter the facility may not have been so unpredictable.
According to Howington, at one point, the RILF had communicated with the city that they weren't certain they would to continue on with the arrangement without a firm commitment to operate through the following summer season.