According to Wickford Art Association President Judith Anderson, plans for expansion at the Beach Street location presented to the Town Council two weeks ago were just that – plans.
“We’re in the development-design stage and that’s it,” said Anderson Friday. “That is what it is at this point – a hope and a dream.”
The WAA came to the Town Council Nov. 25 with plans that would triple the size of the building, located at 36 Beach Street near the Beechwood Senior Center and the Town Beach. The catch is the organization’s building is on town-owned land. WAA is 24 years into a 50-year lease for which it pays $1 a year. The association is responsible for bills such as electricity, heat and water, and is required to pay taxes.
The organization is looking to expand because, Anderson said, they have outgrown the space.
Earlier this fall, WAA representatives talked to Town Manager Mike Embury and Public Works Director Phil Bergeron about their plans. Embury said he encouraged WAA to present their proposal to the Town Council before going any further.
“Get in front of the council now and then it’s going to be up to the council to decide,” Embury said he told them.
The fact that the building is on town-owned land could make getting a loan more difficult, so WAA representatives said they were hoping the town would consider letting it acquire the land.
“At this point, the council only listened to their presentation,” said Town Council President Liz Dolan via email. ”We need to sit down for a conversation with them and go over their options. WAA is a fantastic group and we certainly want them to be able to expand to meet their needs, but a sale of this public property would be controversial for sure. Perhaps we can help them find another location that suits their needs.”
Sale of the land would need to be approved by voters.
While WAA’s Anderson said the organization was in the early stages, she noted they’d talked to their neighbors in the area – residents and the board of the senior center – and people have been universally positive.
“We’ve gotten support everywhere we’ve turned,” said Anderson.“I will reach out to them next week to set up a meeting,” said Dolan. “For now, their proposal is just that … a proposal.”