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So long to Shooters, hello to waterfront

The old Shooters Nightclub building is facing its final days. Rhode Island voters approved a ballot question last Tuesday that allows the state to purchase the Shooters property. Officials plan to tear down the former club, build a public marina, establish a water taxi service to Newport and add the site's 65,000 square feet of land to India Point Park, said Michael Sullivan, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Plans for a multi-story restaurant are also in the works.

The property will cost the state $3.2 million, and construction costs will add on at least an additional $3 million, Sullivan said. Renting the land to different organizations could generate some revenue back for the state, he said.

He described the purchase as a "win-win situation" for both Rhode Island and private corporations. "The land is publicly owned, and the public is guaranteed to have access to the land, but the size of privately owned buildings would have to be approved by the state, and the building owner would still pay taxes to the state."

The Shooters nightclub closed over 10 years ago and has remained vacant since that time.

Rhode Island environmental groups share the state's vision for the land expansion. Environmental advocacy organizations such as Save Our Shores, Head of the Bay Gateway and the Rocky Point Foundation campaigned to put the issue on the ballot. Over the past year, representatives spoke at rallies and talk shows and put out YouTube videos about the importance of the land to Rhode Island citizens.

The issue holds a special interest for John Torgan, baykeeper and director of advocacy of Save The Bay, a nonprofit that works to conserve the Narragansett Bay region. He grew up in Providence and has been involved with Save the Bay for 18 years.

"When Shooters was there, it was just a loud, cheesy scene," he said. "It was not really an asset.  To have given it back to the public is a big benefit to our community."

Torgan said he remembers when he was a child, and the India Point area was heavily polluted. Now, he says he "can't wait to take (his) kids and go fishing."

The India Point Park addition was part of a larger open spaces ballot question last Tuesday. The state will use the remainder of the $14.7 million to expand Rocky Point State Park and restore Fort Adams in Newport.

Officials also pointed to Newport's bid to host the 2013 America's Cup, the most prestigious international sailing race. Planned water taxis would provide further transportation to and from the Cup, leaving "far less of a carbon footprint" than other transit methods, Sullivan said.


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