Gilbane claims company offered town ‘sweetheart deal’
WARWICK – A decision is expected soon regarding a lawsuit brought against the town from G.P. Pier Retail, Inc., an entity of Gilbane Properties, after a hearing last week saw a Kent County Superior Court Judge take the town’s motion to dismiss the claim under advisement. The complaint filed by Gilbane is a companion suit to a similar lawsuit brought against the town by library project advocates which was allowed to go forward last week.
In the hearing, which lasted about 45 minutes, attorneys from Gilbane argued that the building company had granted significant concessions to the Town of Narragansett when it sold the town the 18,500-square-foot former Belmont building in the Pier Marketplace for $2.8 million under a previous council in 2018. Gilbane posited that the company offered the town a “sweetheart deal” due to the fact that the building was envisioned for a new library. In opposition, town solicitor Andrew Berg responded that if Gilbane cared about the property being used for the town’s original intention of housing its new public library, the multi-billion-dollar international building corporation would have put language in its contracts with the town noting the building as such and guaranteeing the space be used for municipal library purposes upon the sale, as is typical for real estate exchanges of this nature. In the absence of any kind of clause that would bind the town to using the building for a new library, attorneys from Gilbane shot back that in original drafts of the deal between the town and building company, the property was referred to as “the library parcel” in Gilbane documents.
The topic of a new public library has driven a wedge between the current council, and the courts are currently hearing a series of lawsuits brought forward against the town regarding the issue. The Town of Narragansett and Gilbane Properties have a long history, and many blame the building company for the current status of the pier and its marketplace plaza next to the town beach, which features some failing businesses and a plethora of large vertical condominium units. Gilbane owns and rents out much of the Pier Marketplace, including the condominiums, and was responsible for the development of the plaza and some of the surrounding area in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a statement, Narragansett Town Council President Matthew Mannix, who has consistently opposed the new library project and expressed skepticism of the Gilbane deal back when it was being floated in 2017 and 2018, shook off the building company’s assertions that town was offered concessions when purchasing the building.
“The biggest takeaway from the hearing was the characterization by Gilbane’s attorney of the purchase of the old IGA building by the former Narragansett Town Council of Susan C. Buonanno, Michael Moretti and Patrick Murray as a ‘sweetheart’ deal,” he said. “Any Narragansett resident who understands the town’s history and cares about its future knows that wasting $2.8 million on that property and agreeing to annual maintenance fees was a mistake and not a ‘sweetheart’ deal. But Gilbane clearly pulled the wool over the eyes of the former council. This lawsuit prevents the town from fixing their mistake. I hope the judge does not let this bad-faith lawsuit unnecessarily drag on.”