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Newport to Approve $200 Million for Levee Purchase, Redevelopment

The Newport city commission will hold a special meeting on Monday afternoon to approve the issuance of $200 million in industrial revenue bonds for the purchase and redevelopment of Newport on the Levee.

North American Properties is expected to close on the sale of the entertainment property for roughly $100 million. City Manager Tom Fromme told The River City News that North American Properties plans to invest approximately $100 million more in freshening up the Levee.

Industrial revenue bonds allow municipalities to assist developers with projects in cities, but the funds do not impact the city's finances.

"They have plans for additional office space," Fromme said, noting one aspect of the redevelopment plan. He said city officials met with representatives for an eight-hour planning session recently that also included real estate agents and architects. "There are ideas about changing the whole entrance-way to make it more inviting, and access to the garage that would be easier for people to come in from the front way."

Fromme said that could include a relocation of Brio, the Italian restaurant that has been at the Levee since the attraction opened in 2001. Drivers headed to the Levee from Monmouth Street would then have direct access to the parking garage, Fromme said of some of the plans.

The nearby empty block could be home to new development like hotels next to Newport Aquarium.

The Levee staircases would also be redesigned, Fromme said.

Fromme cited Avalon, a development near Atlanta also owned by North American Properties Group, as inspiration for what could happen in Newport.

"It's really exciting. It's going to breathe new life into the Levee, and in conjunction with the Skywheel, it's going to make a huge impact beyond Newport," Fromme said. "It's not hyperbole. This could really have a major impact from a regional point of view."

The bond issuance will be the largest in Newport's history.

The sale of the Levee is still not closed, but should follow the bond issuance. 

"They are itching to get started pretty quickly," Fromme said. "I think they're really high on this project."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher