WESTERLY — The Westerly train station, vacant since September 2016, will become the temporary home to the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly following approval of the arrangement Tuesday by the state Properties Committee.
The committee approved a license agreement between the state Department of Transportation, which owns the train station building and parking lot, and the Gallery, which needs new quarters while its High Street space is renovated as part of the United Theatre renovation project. The Gallery’s current locale at 7 High St. (the former Montgomery Ward building) is next door to the theater. Both properties are owned by the Westerly Land Trust.
“We’re grateful and very excited about moving into that space,” said Ardie Harrison, the Gallery’s treasurer and a member of its board.
The Gallery, which has been in its current space for about seven years, hopes to complete the move to the train station by Aug. 1. Harrison said the 5,000-square-foot space in the train station is slightly larger than the Gallery’s current space, and the station will require some engineering, probably in the form of free-standing walls to ensure an adequate amount of hanging space.
“It’s a beautiful, historic building but will take a little work to make it an art gallery,” Harrison said.
The agreement calls for the Gallery to lease the space at the railroad station for two years for $1,167 per month, according to the committee. The state and the Gallery have options to renew the lease, said Thomas J. Liguori Jr., a lawyer who is working on the United Theatre project.
“But the theater renovation plans include the co-op coming back,” Liguori said.
Liguori represents Charles “Chuck” Royce, whose investment in Westerly includes a focus on the downtown. Royce is best known for restoring and reopening the Ocean House in Watch Hill. Liguori was one of the local business and political leaders, including state Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, who looked for a way to get the lights back on at the train station as soon as Amtrak stopped offering services inside the station.
“We were involved in the efforts to bring the train station back to life because it being closed had a negative impact on the effort to revitalize downtown,” Liguori said.
Work at the co-op’s current space will include improvements to the structural supports underneath the gallery, installation of bathrooms for the theater, and installation of an elevator and a heating and air conditioning system. A portion of the space will become a music school.