From The Office of Cranston Mayor Kenneth J. Hopkins

Mayor Kenneth J. Hopkins today expressed disappointment in several local officials who have expressed opposition to an idea that has not yet even been formulated on the potential acquisition of the historic Park Theatre.

“Like the Budlong Pool discussion, people choose to stake out political positions on an issue without the facts or taking the time to gain the full base of knowledge that responsible public officials on matters of public policy should gather,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said consideration of this potential acquisition, as well as consideration of other facilities, are in the infancy stage of discussions with city appointed and elected officials along with potential stakeholders.

“It is wrong when we cannot explore ideas without council people running to the press or posting on social media misinformation or incomplete information,” Hopkins stated, adding “it is a sad day when governmental leaders cannot undertake consideration of possible projects for the good of a community without attention seeking politicians throwing their political grenades.”

“We were not even at the point to intelligently discuss this with the full city council or public, however the concept of potentially pursuing The Park was agreed upon by the council president and council majority leader,” Hopkins continued. “In order to be transparent you have to have something to be transparent about.”

The mayor emphasized that he had made no decision on buying the Park Theatre.

“The availability of a $6 million grant from the state’s 365 Alternative Education program opened up a number of possibilities for a grant submission to state leaders,” Hopkins said. “The Park Theater was one of them. As mayor I don’t have all the ideas but I try and create a culture where people’s ideas can be considered and valued in our city.”

The Mayor said The Park Theater’s “prominence in size and location as an anchor on the revitalized Rolfe Square makes its future critically important to our community.”

“Unlike most critics, I have attended many events there to support the ownership in their venture to keep that ninety-nine-year-old building in vibrant use,” he said.

Hopkins said the physical challenges that they have is no secret.

“I look out my window every day at the building and hope it succeeds as a cultural, entertainment and art center for Cranston’s residents,” he said. “A dark and boarded up theater leaves a void on our main street, and it hurts our quality of life that people come to Cranston to live and work.”

The mayor outlined the steps that would have to be undertaken before in order for the city purchase any property.

1. An inspection or analysis of the physical structure and its component parts like the roof and HVAC system.

2. An appraisal performed by a qualified and certified commercial appraiser who would need the physical inspection report to review.

3. A Phase 1 environmental impact report.

4. Approval of a city council resolution after public hearing and review.

Mayor Hopkins said a meeting was held several weeks ago with key officials including the city council president and minority leader, the superintendent of schools, the chairman of the school committee, the executive director of the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) and several department heads.

The meeting was to talk about possibly applying for the Learn365 RI grant, he explained, and “it was a roundtable for ideas and possible uses and purposes for the state grant.”

“The Park Theater was just one idea,” Hopkins said. “It is important to note that all members of this group expressed a desire to perform due diligence regarding The Park Theater facility.”

Hopkins added, “contrary to Councilman Ferri’s public comments, we are well aware of the component parts of the grant application that includes education, health monitoring and job development.”

The mayor also noted part of the grant process is to solicit community input and that the method and procedures are in the process of being developed.

Hopkins said he has been assembling information on the concept of public ownership of a community cultural building or arts center like the Park Theatre. He has talked to people like Bill Haney who operates Theatre by The Sea productions and other shows at venues like the North Shore Music Theatre, and he has investigated places like the Lynn Memorial Auditorium in Lynn, Massachusetts as a vibrant live event venue.

“My interest in the future of the Park Theater has nothing to do with who owns it,” Hopkins said. “I care about the building and its future as a community asset to serve the residents of Cranston. I will continue to carry out my duties as Mayor without trying to grab a quick headline or curry favor on a perceived issue like some politicians who operate with no vision or willingness to give thoughtful consideration to grand ideas.

“I will continue to work to keep the Park Theatre open regardless of its ownership,” Hopkins concluded. “It would be a shame if it went the way of duckpin bowling.”

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