Photos by Meg O'Neil
By Meg O’Neil
Boaters from all around the globe can now access the heart of downtown Newport via the city's new Maritime Center at the Lower Thames Street Armory, as city and state officials gathered on Saturday, May 26 for a special grand opening.
Nearly three dozen community members watched as Newport Mayor Stephen C. Waluk, Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, state Rep. Peter Martin, and chair of Newport Waterfront Commission Hank Kniskern cut the ribbon, officially opening the transient boating facility for use over the Memorial Day Weekend.
The only public access to the waterfront between Perrotti and King Park, the opening of the Maritime Center has been an event years in the making. Four years ago, a $713,000 federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant was awarded to the city for the redevelopment of approximately 8,000 square feet in the Armory’s basement.
Storage lockers, restrooms with showers; a laundry room, vending area and ATM machines now welcome visitors. The facility also features a lounge with charts and Internet access; a concierge/information desk; office space for the city dock master and facilities manager; and an interactive information kiosk to help visitors locate sight-seeing destination and other ports of call.
Waluk described the project as, a “vision to help maintain Newport as the boating capital of the universe.” He also said the boating facility will make its users feel welcome in Newport and will keep visitors, “doing what we want them to do here: get out onto Thames Street and into our neighborhoods and spend money.”
The facility also features heated floors that are “wash-out ready” in case of high tides that are expected to flood the interior. Workers kept intact historical pieces of the 1884 armory, including exposed brick columns and walls, and ceiling beams that contain 19th century bullet holes from the expanse that was used as a shooting range.
Called a “federal, state, city, private, public sector partnership,” by Paiva-Weed, the Senate President from Newport said the project would not have been possible without those key pieces. She closed, saying “For us as Newporters, access to the waterfront is so important and this is a final piece in the history of this building that will preserved over time.”
The Maritime Center is now open daily through Oct. 31 from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.