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Newport Daily News
February 19, 2007

Newport Daily News: New Owner Plans To Turn Anchorage Into Affordable Condominiums
By Matt Sheley/Daily News staff

The Anchorage neighborhood in Middletown sold Friday for $15.5 million.

The announcement seals the long-anticipated property sale from the Navy and GMH Military Housing to The Landings Group, headed by Portsmouth developer Christopher C. Bicho.
Now a proposal will move forward to transform the former military housing tract on Coddington Highway into affordable condominiums geared toward Aquidneck Island's working professionals. The price for the condos is expected to be between $175,000 and $275,000.

As part of the deal, The Landings Group paid the town more than $1.5 million for impact fees and wrote a check for $80,000 to cover the balance of the area's police coverage not covered by the federal government.

Bicho said the plan is to pump $4 million into renovating the property over the next year, with condos going on the market after that. Local municipal workers such as teachers and police officers and those already renting units will have priority to buy.

"This is one of the first parcels in the country to sell as part of this process nationwide," Bicho said. "Not only does it give the people who work here and make the community what it is the ability to live here, but another benefit people don't really think about is the taxpayers just got $15.5 million back."

In September, the Planning Board unanimously approved plans to bring 238 condominiums to the 28-acre tract behind the former Navy Lodge, Middletown Public Library and the Middletown West Main Road recreational complex.

Two months earlier, the town and GMH - based in Newtown Square, Pa. - reached a 50-year agreement for police and fire protection to the Anchorage, Coddington Cove and Greene Lane neighborhoods.

The property became available as part of the Navy's $500 million-plus public-private housing partnership with GMH. Under that February 2004 agreement, GMH now manages approximately 5,600 units across the Northeast, including about 900 in Middletown.

As part of that arrangement, GMH was given the opportunity to sell the Anchorage, which historically had been home to Navy families and considered off limits to local residents.

Initially, Church Community Housing Corp. emerged as the leader to buy the site for $14.9 million, with a mixed commercial-affordable housing plan backed by the town. In the spring, GMH elected to go with The Landings Group and Trammell Crow Residential. Bicho said he recently bought out his Atlanta-based partners.

"I am very pleased that our partner, GMH Housing, has reached an agreement on the sale of Anchorage," said Todd W. Malloy, commanding officer of Naval Station Newport. "It is good to know that the property that was no longer needed by the Navy will be put to good use."

"Obviously, we're pleased that it (sold)," said Robert M. Rulli, GMH regional project director. "I think it's long overdue. (Bicho's) plan is what Middletown and the island needs, and he's fully committed to the project."

Town officials have watched developments with the project closely, wondering about the impact the new condos will have on the school district and other local services. Agreements such as the one signed in August for police and fire protection and impact fees are intended to lessen that burden. Most of the impact fee money - about $1.1 million - will go to the School Department.

Patrick O'N. Hayes Jr. - the attorney representing The Landings Group - said the town won't have to worry about the infrastructure component of the project either. The way the deal is structured, Hayes said the infrastructure needs are clearly spelled out and the complex will use a portion of Naval Station Newport's sewer allotment at the city of Newport's wastewater plant on Connell Highway.

Bicho said The Landings Group is expected to invest $25 million in the property, which will be renamed Landings.

"I think it's going to effectively provide some affordable housing to allow people who live here the ability to purchase," Hayes said. "We have a very high range of prices and you hear about young people all the time who have to move out of the area because they can't find a place to live."

Terms of the deal were recorded Monday afternoon in Town Hall. The 130-page packet of information included several easements - including storm water, sewer and water - along with other paperwork. The news comes at a time when GMH also is marketing housing units in nonexclusive areas of the Coddington Cove and Greene Lane neighborhoods to civilians.


February 2004: As part of a $500 million public-private project, the Navy announces its partnership with GMH Military Housing of Pennsylvania, which officials say will help pump money into fixing existing housing stocks.

October 2004: Middletown and GMH discuss a tentative agreement for annual payment for the town to provide police and fire protection to local housing units; GMH calls off the deal a day later.

November 2004: GMH officially takes over 5,600 military housing units from Maine to New Jersey, including approximately 1,350 on Aquidneck Island.

December 2004: Middletown, Navy and GMH officials meet in Town Hall for the first - and only - public discussion of the project.

June 2005: Church Community Housing Corp. reaches a tentative agreement to buy the 28-acre Anchorage property from GMH for $14.9 million.

September 2005: Because of jurisdictional issues cited by the Navy, Middletown and State Police take over patrolling the Anchorage area.

October 2005: Citing frustration with the pace of the discussions and lack of progress, GMH walks away from talks with Middletown and Church Community Housing.

April 2006: Prospective buyers of the Anchorage property - Portsmouth developer Christopher C. Bicho and Trammell Crow - emerges with plan for affordable condominiums.

August 2006: Deal for the town to provide police and fire services completed, with GMH agreeing to pay $1.29 million annually for 50 years, along with other benefits.

January 2007: The $15.5 million purchase of the Anchorage property from the Navy and GMH by The Landings Group, led by Bicho, is announced.

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