Piece of Newport’s past on block

‘It used to be a booming fishing town.’

PIER PRESSURE: Josh Haggerty, second from right, unloads fish from The Merit at Parascandola Wharf in Newport. Also pictured are Ernie Nicholson and Jim Parascandola. The wharf is Newport's last private fishing pier and is for sale.
FLOATING THE IDEA: The Merit sits at Parascandola Wharf. The wharf owners would prefer a long-term development lease, but are considering an outright sale.
Posted 7/23/12

Michael Parascandola, whose family owns the last private fishing pier in Newport Harbor, remembers when there were 20 small saloons on Thames Street and the fish business was booming on the waterfront.

There were also coal yards like the one that his family bought in 1950 and turned into Parascandola Wharf, a fishing pier wedged tightly between the luxury yachts docking at Forty One North hotel and Newport Yachting Center.

Without the recession, which put a halt to most large-scale development, Parascandola Wharf would probably already be gone, transformed into a luxury marina development like the abutting properties. The Parascandolas put the 74,000-square-foot property on the market in the fall of 2010 with the idea of leaving the dwindling fishing business and allowing the pier to be redeveloped into the highest and best use.

After offers didn’t meet their expectations, the family switched brokerages, from Gustave White Sotheby’s to Peter M. Scotti & Associates, and put the property back on the market this summer for buyers interested in a mixed-use development.

“We do have one of the best spots in the whole harbor, but the fishing has gone downhill for us – we have no volume,” Parascandola said. “It used to be a booming fishing town, but now with all the marinas and hotels, some people like to see fishing boats in the harbor and some don’t.”

After three years with the lowest interest in harbor-front development in memory, Newport real estate agents and brokers say the market is poised for a dramatic rebound and it is now only a matter of when, not if, the wharf will sell.

Paul Leys, broker owner of Gustave White, said while he was listing the wharf, there were at least two serious offers to buy it, but the family had held out for a long-term lease.

The Parascandolas would still prefer a long-term development lease – the property is listed for $925,000 per year – but are open to considering an outright sale.

“When you look at what is going on in the tourist industry in Newport and the defense industry on Aquidneck Island, I think we are in pretty good shape,” Peter Scotti said. “I think it will make a good hotel, marina, restaurant, condos or time shares.”

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