NEWPORT CITY – In September, Bill Stenger, co-owner of Jay Peak Resort, announced plans for an ambitious $500 million development project in the Northeast Kingdom.
The plans included replacing the Waterfront Plaza with a 150-suite hotel, conference center and retail area, bringing Newport back to its former glory when trains, horse-drawn buggies and the new automobile made Newport the place to be for summer tourists.
Stenger's announcement made some residents worry they would lose Vista Foods, the city’s only grocery store.
However, plaza owner Tony Pomerleau promised Newport would retain a supermarket in the downtown area.
“There will be one at all times,” he said.
Demolition of the shopping center might not happen as quickly as some think.
“As of today, I have nothing signed with Bill,” Pomerleau said Thursday morning. “He has been talking with me for a long time.”
Early Thursday afternoon, Pomerleau was on his way to offer one of the tenants, Hoagies Pizza and Pasta, a new lease.
The current five-year lease expired, Pomerleau said. He wasn’t sure exactly how long the new lease would be, but said it would be at least three years and was willing to extend it to five.
Pomerleau suggests the city deal with the Spates Block between Second Street and Central Street before dealing with his property.
“The best thing that can happen is to tear down that block and build some stores,” said the 94-year-old developer. He believes it’s important to have retail before a hotel. “The hotel can come next. I can wait. I have a long time to live.”
Stenger, who is on a business trip in Korea, responded through E-mail, saying that he and Pomerleau "continue to work well together on the project. It’s all good."