NEWPORT DAILY NEWS - Portsmouth Waterfront Tract goes for $1.1 Million

September 26, 2018

By Derek Gomes 
Daily News staff writer

Posted Sep 26, 2018 at 7:39 PM

PORTSMOUTH - The winning bid during an auction Wednesday for 43 waterfront acres was $1.1 million.

Once all financial considerations are taken into account, the purchase price will eclipse $1.2 million, according to Justin Manning, who ran the auction on behalf of Massachusetts-based JJManning Auctioneers.

Manning, who is the company's president and chief financial officer, declined to identify who placed the winning bid, citing privacy concerns. He said seven bidders, including five from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, participated in the auction held at the site. The other two bidders were from the West Coast, he said during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

The site is sandwiched between the Melville marina and boatyard to the north and the Weaver Cove public boat launch to the south. The current owner is Melville Associates LP, a company apparently associated with developer J. Brian O'Neill. In December 2006, Melville Associates secured $14.1 million to purchase the site, according to a copy of the mortgage.

The goal was to build the "state's largest marina with room for mega-yachts, residences, shops, restaurants and marine businesses," The Daily News reported in March 2007. The site was approved for a 1,495-slip marina in October 1995, and O'Neill's plans called for nearly 1,000 housing units.

His other projects in Portsmouth, including the Carnegie Tower and Newport Beach Club, have come to fruition, while the Weaver Cove site remains untouched.

In August 2014, the Army Corps of Engineers New England District started a public comment period for a permit application from Melville Associates to build and maintain a marina with 887 slips on Weaver Cove. The agency eventually withdrew the application because Melville Associates did not provide additional information when prompted by the corps, according to agency spokesman Tim Dugan. There are no active permits pertaining to the property filed with the state Coastal Resources Management Council, according to a CRMC spokeswoman.

When no one answered Manning's call for a $2 million starting bid, he asked for $100,000, which sparked the bidding. Four of the seven bidders accounted for most of the action, he said.

"There's a substantial environmental cleanup [needed] at the site," Manning explained. "It will sell for the net value. The person is willing to pay 'x' minus what the remediation would be and that leads you to the final number. It could have gone higher if there were more bidders there, but probably fell in the range we expected based on everything that is related to the site."

The winning bidder signed a purchase-and-sales agreement, made an initial deposit and has 30 days to close on the property, a fairly straightforward process given the auction stipulated that the winning bidder will assume the property as-is, Manning said.

Asked what the auction means for the real estate market, he replied, "Whether people think the economy is changing or not, you had some deep-pocketed, able developers that competed for this asset and it's showing that things are fairly vibrant. And they're not making any more waterfront.