KINGSTON – The University of Rhode Island recently granted a one-time extension to the Hellenic Society Paideia to submit a proposal detailing the organization’s plans to complete a proposed cultural center and outdoor amphitheater at the university.
On Dec. 17, university officials met with Ilias Tomazos, president of the Rhode Island chapter of Paideia, and following several subsequent requests from local officials, the university extended the deadline for the project proposal to April 30.
After waiting seven years for Paideia to obtain proper building permits, the university sent a letter to the group in November terminating the 2005 agreement to build a multi-million dollar building, complete with outdoor amphitheater and classic Greek architecture, next to the school’s Fine Arts Center.
As part of the extension there are several requirements Paideia must meet, as detailed in a Jan. 18 letter from Robert Weygand, URI vice president for administration and finance, to Tomazos and Paideia.
The proposal must include a financial plan that “encompasses full and complete funding for the entire project.” According to Weygand’s letter, the project is estimated to cost between $4 million and $6 million. A minimum of $2 million must be deposited by April 30 and the letter states, “Fundraising pledges for this purpose will not be an acceptable financial mechanism but a traditional construction loan…will be acceptable.”
The organization must also submit plans to the university, as well as the state fire marshal and the state building inspector, for the entire project and they must be prepared by a Rhode Island registered engineer/architect. The university is also requesting Paideia retain a project manager and contractor and set a “realistic” timetable to complete the entire building within one year.
Weygand notes that the university will require professional contractors and subcontractors to complete the work on the project.
“Volunteerism will not be [an] acceptable method to construct the building,” he wrote.
If Paideia submits a proposal including the four specified elements by April 30, the effective termination of the ground lease will be extended to May 1. If the organization fails to submit an acceptable plan of “corrective action” by April 30, the ground lease will be terminated without further notice and Paideia will be required to return the site to its former condition or to reimburse the university for all related costs if it fails to do so.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee wrote a letter to David Dooley, URI president, on Jan. 8, requesting the university grant Paideia a one-time extension.
Prior to the extension, Tomazos, president of the Rhode Island chapter of Paideia, sent a letter on Dec. 31 to the university regarding the Nov. 14 termination of the lease agreement and requesting an extension on the project.
“Paideia HAS NOT and WILL NOT abandon this project, now or in the future,” Tomazos wrote. “For Greek-Americans in Rhode Island and in United States, these projects embody a testament of the rich Hellenic cultural and education contributions to western civilization.” Tomazos cited previous projects the organization has completed in the United States, such as its project at the University of Connecticut, and projects abroad in Greece.
“Moreover, upon completion, every Paideia project becomes a jewel at its institution, both esthetically and structurally, geared to outlast us,” Tomazos wrote.
Ultimately, the university granted the extension after the meeting and apparent support of Paideia by local officials.
“I appreciate your offer to extend the Center for Hellenic Studies Paideia’s deadline until April 30,” he wrote. “I look forward to continuing the good progress at URI and in public higher education in Rhode Island.”
Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis (D – Dist. 33 Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greewich) and Myrna George, president of the South County Tourism Council, also voiced support for Paideia in a Dec. 31 letter.
“We are writing to ask your assistance in helping to make sure the proposed Center for Hellenic Studies Paideia at the University of Rhode Island moves forward and becomes an educational resources for the state of Rhode Island and the whole of New England,” Raptakis and George wrote.
The letter continues, “We were surprised at the sudden and rather draconian deadline for fundraising which the URI administration imposed on the Hellenic Society Paideia. It is our hope that we can the time to conduct a fair assessment of the project and develop a more realistic timeline for raising funds and taking immediate steps to complete construction at the site.”
Following these requests, the university granted the extension, despite the previous years it spent waiting for the project to be completed from July 2009 to December 2011.
“URI has been very patient but the plans (financial, management and construction) to complete this project are inadequate and unrealistic,” Weygand wrote in his Jan. 18 letter. “The society has not demonstrated the ability to complete the project as it was envisioned.”
But Tomazos remains confident that Paideia can complete the project.
“Paideia and the entire Greek-American community is fully determined to see this project completed,” he wrote. “And we are ready to resume construction immediately upon receiving the appropriate permit, which is currently pending.”