2009-06-25 / News

JAC gets planning commission approval to buy Valley Road property

By Tyler Will

The Jamestown Arts Center received unanimous approval from the Jamestown Planning Commission to buy the house at 18 Valley Rd. in Jamestown at its June 17 meeting. The sole concern raised was the issue of parking.

“We are moving onward,” JAC President Kate Petrie said. “We are very excited.”

The JAC is a non-profit organization meant to foster “imagination and self-expression,” according to the organization’s website. A document given to the Planning Commission by the JAC says it will offer a place suitable for visual and performing arts, including art, dance and yoga classes.

The project faced difficulties in recent months because of restrictions at the Southwest Avenue location its officers and board intended to buy for headquarters, including discovery of Native American artifacts and flood plain designations. But the Planning Commission did not express opposition to the center, except for a concern about availability of adequate parking.

“I will be a valet,” Commissioner Richard Ventrone said after JAC board members gave a presentation about the proposed site. “Once in a while, we catch a break, and this is one of them. We are very excited. I wish you could start tomorrow.”

JAC board member Abigail Campbell-King showed the commission computer-generated images and floor plans for the center. The diagrams include a clapboard exterior, large windows and a roof with decorative divider strips. The location, in Jamestown’s downtown area, is close to the library.

“We do not give up,” Campbell- King said. “We are on a quest, and we were very fortunate to find 18 Valley Rd.”

The commission’s only expressed concern was about parking. While the lot plan includes eight spaces on the site, Town Planner Lisa Bryer said a total of 16 spaces will be needed. Between the library and bakery, that area of Jamestown is busy, and parking could become an issue.

Commissioner Nancy Bennett said visitors might park at the library and use it and the JAC. The commission said the library has 22 spots, and parallel parking spots are available across the street. With approval, the Planning Commission set a condition that the officers and board of the JAC create a “detailed approach” to parking.

The officers and board said they conducted a brief survey of parking, and found that the area of 18 Valley Rd. is most often crowded from about 7:30 to 8:45 a.m., when parents are driving their kids to school, and then again in the afternoon when kids are being picked up.

Bennett generally dismissed the issue of parking.

“I have to second what Richard [Ventrone] said, I think this is great,” she said. “I think it’s worth the town having to deal with the parking and residents figure out where to park.”

Planning Commission Chairman Gary Girard said parking will need to be worked out by the community. “I think you have got a great plan and a fabulous concept,” he said.

The schedule of classes the center expects to provide would not begin until 8:30 a.m., after the morning rush hour, but it will also offer afterschool art classes, which would conflict with the afternoon rush.

Officers and board members said the center will offer summer camps, and will be for all ages. The schedule includes both pre-school art and teen art classes. It also includes morning and evening yoga classes. The studios could also be used for modern art forms, like digital photography, the board said.

“We hope that the arts center will be a legacy for our community, created by our community,” Petrie said.

The floor plan the board provided to the commission includes four studios, one of which will serve as an art gallery, with a library and office on the second floor.

“We are completely dedicated to this project for the betterment of the island,” JAC Vice President Elizabeth Congdon said. “We want to be part of its plan, and we want to be part of what is wonderful about this island.”

According to documents from Island Realty, the company that lists the property, 18 Valley Road is an approximately 5,000-sq. ft. building on a 10,000-sq. ft. lot, and costs about $700,000. The cost will be financed through a future capital campaign.

A document the board gave the commission said it received a $25,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, which “made it possible for Seaside [Philanthropy] to design a strong business plan and capital campaign for the Jamestown Arts Center.”

Kate Smith, a Jamestown resident and member of the Bike Path Committee, said she would like to encourage the JAC to promote bicycling as the mode of transportation to the center, and as a part of the idea of art and body nourishment. The JAC board agreed it would like to do that.

Contact Elizabeth Congdon at 662-6163 for more information.

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