The fading “Pink Lady of Apponaug” across from Warwick City Hall is on her way to getting a new look, and plenty of people have expressed opinions on what she should wear.
Heritage cream is the preferred color, based on early voter returns, but that could all change when the campaign is elevated to online voting. It’s all about choosing a color scheme for the soon to be restored clapboards at the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and it has generated a lot of buzz over the plan to “restore the Victorian Lady.” But there’s more to it than color.
Several years ago, the Chamber launched a fundraising campaign to redo the sides of the building that dates back to the 1800s. While some pledges and donations were made, the drive lost momentum and the building’s peeling clapboards only got worse. The Chamber turned to Dan Barry, of Daniel R. Barry and Associates, to conduct a feasibility study for the fund-raising campaign.
Soon thereafter, Mayor Scott Avedisian; Aram Garabedian, managing general partner of Warwick Mall; former board president and owner of Thrifty Car Rental Tom Celona; and another former president of the board and attorney, Joseph McGair, all agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs of the drive. Campaign co-chairs are Steve Kitchin of New England Institute of Technology; Leah Prata of Centreville Bank; Marisa Albanese of National Grid and Christine Wilson of Coastway Community Bank.
With new energy and some major commitments, the campaign has surpassed the halfway mark to $200,000, Chamber president and CEO Lauren Slocum said Tuesday.
“I’m very excited,” she said, “It’s really coming together.”
Work on the building won’t start until the goal is reached, which Slocum hopes will come as soon as late this fall or early next spring.
So far, pledges and donations have come from 59 sources, a fraction of the more than 840 chamber members. There have been some significant individual donations, including $10,000 from Centreville Bank; $10,000 from Laramee Wignall; $7,500 from Warwick Mall; $7,000 from Slocum Realty/Slocum Insurance; $5,000 from New England Institute of Technology; $5,000 from Thomas J. Celona; $5,000 from Steve and Diane Kitchin; and a recent $5,000 legislative grant from House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi. The city has also been a big contributor, committing $20,000 over several years, Slocum said.
Asking people to vote on the color scheme, however, has sparked new interest and donations from people without any connection to the Chamber. Slocum tells of one person who had been waiting for the bus outside the building. The man came in and gave $5 to the campaign.
Slocum recalls him saying, “I know it’s not a lot,” to which she added had special meaning because, “Five dollars was a lot to him.”
The money will do more than dress the Victorian Lady, as she is called, in architectural vinyl siding. In fact, two buildings will get a facelift. The single-story next to the Chamber offices, which is older and reportedly was a blacksmith and then the City Clerk’s office, will also get siding, but not the same color as the three-story Chamber office.
Other work included in the project will offer improvements to the HVAC systems, new lighting, some roof replacements, insulation and other energy saving improvements, parking lot resurfacing, a fire panel and signage.
Slocum is optimistic that the new look will long precede the Apponaug Circulator that started in July. Projected for 2017, the circulator will enable motorists to avoid the village center while creating a pedestrian-friendly environment for the center of the village.
“We’ll lose the ‘mini Indy,’” Slocum said, referring to the stream of traffic in front of the Chamber. She expects a slower pace and an environment that will benefit businesses.
For the moment, color ranks high in the minds of those who know the building. The salmon-colored suggestion is apparently not an option.
“I was outvoted,” says Slocum.
Heritage cream, closely followed by cypress green, are the two major rivals. But then, only about 60 votes have been cast. Slocum plans to have it so people can even cast their ballots from their smart phones. Making it as easy to donate will be the next step…just watch.