NEWPORT – Local entrepreneur Greg Lovley confirmed Tuesday that he is purchasing the former Hood cottage cheese plant on Railroad Street for future development.
Although he was guarded in revealing what the property’s future use will be, Lovley said some possible uses could be a cluster of small shops, warehouse space and possibly a water bottling enterprise.
“Right now, we’ll concentrate on getting the building buttoned up for the winter,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lovley’s acquisition of the Hood plant was being hailed by town officials as a positive step forward for downtown Newport.
Neighbors of the abandoned facility have complained to town officials for decades about dangerous conditions that have lured children to play inside and around the factory.
“This will fit very well with our overall downtown plan,” said Town Manager James Ricker. “We are looking for exactly this type of entrepreneurial spirit.”
Downtown Newport has been undergoing a renaissance, with several new businesses starting up and a highly successful river restoration and riverwalk project moving forward.
“Newport is designated as a walkable community,” said Ricker, who has been working diligently to bring businesses to downtown and highlight the area’s historical treasures in an effort to create a destination.
Meanwhile, rumors that a hotel and a Home Depot facility were coming to town were debunked as pure speculation. “The Home Depot is not a go,” Lovley said Monday. “They were looking at three different sites and decided the demographics were not good enough.”
David Ireland of Integrity Realty of Newport was the first to suggest the Home Depot and hotel possibilities. In early December, Ireland predicted formal closings on a 200-acre parcel in Palmyra and a 37-acre parcel in Newport, the former Ferry farm, within two weeks.
On Monday, however, Ireland backed away from confirming either development. He did state that the Ferry farm property was purchased Monday by a commercial developer and that a second property deal “is in the works.” He would not confirm that the second deal would provide access to the Ferry farm property from the Triangle, rather than off the end of Spring Street as is now the case. Providing access directly to the Triangle would greatly enhance the land’s value and attractiveness for future development.
Ireland would not identify the developer but added, “We are working on a few things and they are all very positive.”
Lovley said the closing on the former cottage cheese facility originally was set for last week, then postponed until Tuesday, but legal work has not been completed and the closing may not take place until later this week. He would not reveal the purchase price.
Structurally, the oldest part of the sprawling facility – built in the 1880s – is in good shape and sound, said Lovley.
“Some of the smaller additions will have to come down,” he added. “We will concentrate on cleaning up the site for now – the buildings are full of animals – and focus next summer on possibilities.”
Lovley said that will buy him more time to concentrate on finishing the Newport Entertainment Center, a massive bowling and theater complex at Newport’s commercial district, known as the Triangle, and complete development of a motor sports business a few feet away on Route 2.
Lovley, the owner of Lovley’s Motel, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Triangle Plaza, Scotty’s Restaurant and Newport Plaza, all in Newport and Palmyra, admitted, “I have too many projects going on right now.”