Newport Revitalization Plan Hits Roadblock
Part of an ambitious revitalization plan for the Northeast Kingdom appears to have at least temporarily de-railed.
The shopping center that houses a grocery store and pharmacy in downtown Newport was supposed to make way for a $100 million hotel and convention center proposed by Jay Peak Resort co-owner Bill Stenger. But the property owner, real estate developer Tony Pomerleau, has told a local newspaper that the deal has fallen through because he had not yet received money from Stenger, and that the “current tenants will stay.”
In 2012, Stenger announced with his business partner Ariel Quiros a $600 million cluster of redevelopment projects financed in part by money from foreigners who would get visas in exchange for their investments in projects creating American jobs. Stenger has recently said that recruiting those financiers is more or less on track, but that the federal program that grants the visas, EB5, is creating approval delays.
But officials at Jay Peak Resort say Stenger was shocked by Pomerleau’s announcement Monday that the shopping center deal had fallen through.
Stenger and Pomerleau met privately in Burlington on Monday afternoon as Stenger attempted to get the deal back on track. At the end of the meeting Stenger released a statement by email:
"I met with Tony Pomerleau today and we have agreed to continue negotiating on the sale of the Newport Waterfront Plaza. Both Tony and I have some more work to do regarding these negotiations but we are both still supportive of the project and want to see it come to fruition. We both agree strongly that the Marina, Hotel and Conference Center would be a good thing for the City of Newport as it would bring many good paying jobs to the area and economic benefits for decades to come. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has slowed down the processing of EB-5 applications and this has led to certain delays in project development. While this is frustrating for all involved, we are hopeful that the processing times will return to normal shortly. In the meantime, we are pleased that construction has begun on the AnC Bio facility and that there will be a groundbreaking for the construction at Burke Mountain in June. In addition, I just returned from a fundraising trip in Asia with Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch and results from that trip are encouraging."
Meanwhile, Newport community leaders say they hope the negotiations will put the project back on the drawing board. Bob Hodgkins chairs the board of the Newport City Renaissance Corporation, a support group for local businesses.
“At this point we’re aware that Bill Stenger and Tony Pomerleau have been talking and I think it’s just a wait-and-see kind of scenario of what transpires in the coming hours and days relative to the development,” Hodgkins said.