Following a recent neighborhood meeting, the city administration and Westbay Community Action reaffirmed their commitment to seeing the former Randall Holden School become the new home for Westbay services.
Westbay offices now housed in the Buttonwoods Plaza, including the Westbay Marketplace, would be relocated to the school beginning as soon as this month, although the city and the agency have yet to reach a lease agreement.
In a statement released last week, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon said: “The move of Westbay Community of Action into the former Randall Holden Elementary School is one that will be a shared benefit to the City and surrounding neighborhood. Re-purposing the building, which has sat vacant since Saint Kevin School left last March, will ensure that the property does not become a visual blight on the surrounding neighborhood and will generate revenue to the City.”
The mayor notes that three municipal offices, housed at the Greene School since a burst pipe closed the City Hall Annex, have been re-located to Holden and would share the building with Westbay. The municipal offices – personnel, MIS and Community Development – are located in a northeast wing of the school.
At the neighborhood meeting, concerns were raised over traffic. The plan is for off-street parking. Some walk-in traffic from clients using buses with stops on Airport Road and Warwick Avenue is projected. The offices would be open on weekdays only and not during evenings.
Paul Salera, president and CEO of Westbay, agrees with Solomon.
He felt the neighborhood meeting addressed a lot of questions. He said in an email that he has talked with residents since the meeting. “[I] reassured then that Westbay will be respectful neighbors while ensuring that we will keep doing what we currently do.”
Salera has yet to see a draft lease for the school. The lease would require City Council approval. He has said Westbay can’t afford to pay more than what it is currently paying, which he put at about $120,000, adding, “we are certain that the city will come up with a lease that is beneficial to all parties including the neighbors.”
In his statement, the mayor says: “The collaboration between the City and Westbay proves that when two entities come together to benefit the greater good, there are countless opportunities to grow Warwick in new and impactful ways. Following last week’s community meeting and after speaking to residents of the Hoxsie neighborhood, it is my feeling that many questions and concerns were addressed. The City will incorporate these concerns as we negotiate a mutually agreed upon lease. Mr. Salera and the entire Westbay team share my vision for embracing our neighbors and working together to build a better future for all of our residents. As we move towards finalizing the lease agreement and addressing zoning regulations with legal counsel, I’m excited to look ahead to what this partnership will mean for both Westbay and Warwick.”
Salera echoed the mayor’s comments.
“Both Westbay and the city are proving that a nonprofit and municipality can come together to better the communities to which we serve … we do embrace the mayor’s vision of embracing the neighbors while building a better future for all,” he said.