Representatives from the Wickford Art Association laid out a plan for a significant change to its 36 Beach Street home at a Town Council meeting last week, suggesting that council members consider allowing the association to take title of the land on which its building sits.
The association is 24 years into a 50-year lease with the town on the property.
"It's run out of space to adequately address the community's needs," said Don Gregory, lawyer for the association.
"We also need more space for our shows," said board president Judith Anderson. "We had 16 shows last year and at several of them, people were standing elbow to elbow and flowing out the doors for the opening reception."
"There's so much energy and so much drive, we need to take it to the next level," said association director Sarah Tallarico. "We're saying help us resolve this so we can move forward."
Under the proposal, the building would grow to 6,300 square feet from its current 1,300 square feet. The renovation would include multi-purpose room additions on both the first and second floors, and a rooftop terrace.
Gregory said the proposed expansion could only take place with a variety of funding sources, including the possibility of commercial financing.
However, commercial financing, Gregory said, is "virtually impossible to obtain if you don't own the property. We want to see if it's possible for the art association to take title of that land."
Town Council President Liz Dolan suggested a loan could be obtained with an extension of the town's lease, but Gregory argued otherwise.
"Commercial financing on leased land is almost nonexistent," he said.
Any move to change ownership of the land would require approval by voters in a referendum, according to town lawyer James Reilly. While it's possible there will be a referendum on sewer expansion this spring, at the latest, there would be a referendum next November.