November 21, 2014
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City seeks proposals for elderly housing at Rhodes School
LONG TIME RESIDENTS: Jan and Norm Levasseur have lived near Christopher Rhodes School for more than 32 years. They say the school has always been a good neighbor and hope that remains the case with any future development of the school that closed in 2008.

If developers are interested, the Christopher Rhodes School could become housing for the elderly, an assisted living facility or an adult day care facility.

Last week, the administration and Council President Bruce Place, chairman of the Christopher Rhodes Elementary School Reuse Committee, announced that the city has issued a Request for Proposals (RFPs) for the sale and reuse of the former elementary school. Using the school for some form of elderly housing will be considered, but not for building general single-family units or condominiums.

That’s good news to some of the immediate neighbors.

“I’m happy to hear they are going to be doing something with it,” said Jan Levasseur, whose property abuts that of the school. She said that her children attended Rhodes before moving on to Aldrich and then Pilgrim High. “It was a great school.”

She and her husband Norm would not want to see the school developed as apartments or condominiums.

“We love this neighborhood,” he said. “That’s why we wouldn’t want to see housing.”

Norm suggested the building could be used as a nursing home or community center. Both Norm and Jan thought the building was put to good use when it was leased to the Rhode Island School for the Deaf while it was building new facilities. They suggested it might be also be good as a center serving special needs students.

Similar aversion to use of the former school for housing was recorded Sunday afternoon in a door-to-door survey of the neighborhood. No particular problems with the vacant school were noted. One family reported seeing police at the school on a fairly regular basis and speculated the building was being used for some form of training exercises.

In a statement released last week, Place said, “The residential uses we envision are the most appropriate ways to preserve the character of the neighborhood, re-purpose the building and provide additional recreational opportunities for our residents. On a personal note, I was very impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the committee members. It’s been a pleasure to work with them on this project.”

The School Committee closed the school in 2008 due to declining enrollment. It was then leased to the School for the Deaf before being transferred to the city. The school, constructed in 1952, is a 46,685-square-foot, one-story building with a flat roof, situated on 9.97 acres on Sherwood Avenue in the Norwood neighborhood. The property is zoned Residential A-7.

As a condition of the sale, the city would retain roughly 5 acres for development of a recreational field and running-walking track and would reserve the right to lease the school gymnasium for municipal recreational use. It would also retain ownership of 24 of 96 existing on-site parking spaces near the field.

A pre-proposal conference will be held on Monday, Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. in the lower level conference room of City Hall, 3275 Post Road, Warwick. Though attendance is not mandatory, it’s strongly encouraged. A tour of the facility will follow the conference.

All RFPs must be submitted to the Division of Purchasing by 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at which time they will be opened, publicly read and recorded. No late submissions will be accepted.

All proposals must be submitted in sealed packages containing one original and 10 copies and clearly labeled “RFP #2013-160 Development of Christopher Rhodes School Property.” Financial statements should be included with the proposal and sealed in a separate envelope clearly marked “Confidential/Not for Public Viewing.”

RFPs should be sent to: City of Warwick, Purchasing Division, Lower Level, 3275 Post Road, Warwick, RI 02886.

To view and download the full RFP, go to www.warwickri.gov, click on the “quick links” tab on the upper right hand side, then click the “bids available” tab.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday that a committee is also studying possible future uses of the closed Potowmut School.

“Potowomut is a little behind in terms of getting their work done due to the fact that the Rhodes committee was organized and formed earlier. The Potowomut committee has been meeting and has started the process. They will be using the RFP and framework of the Rhodes Committee as a Model,” he wrote in an email.

In addition to Place, the committee consisted of: Phil Slocum, in his capacity as Planning Board chairman; Rick Crenca, principal planner in the Planning Department; Joe Blake, maintenance supervisor for the Department of Public Works; Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Warwick Boys & Girls Clubs, which has a Norwood branch; Margaret Andreozzi, a longtime area resident; Heather Murphy, who has been active in a number of area organizations; John Mulhearn, in his capacity as a real estate developer; and Carl Salusito, president of the Norwood Neighborhood Association.

“The committee devoted a great deal of time to examining all of the issues related to the property to ensure that its reuse would be most beneficial to the city,” Avedisian said. “I thank the committee for their efforts and the thoughtful, measured approach they took.”


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