PROVIDENCE — Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor said Tuesday the former Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket is still being considered to house families who are homeless, even though questions remain about its ownership and its connection to Rhode Island businessman Michael A. Mota.
“Our attorneys have already been examining the situation, including the parties, and they continue to,” Pryor said. “All options are on the table.”
The state had been using the former hospital complex to house about 20 to 30 families in a temporary shelter run by Amos House, at $60,000 a month in state-subsidized rent. The families were forced out after a sprinkler leak in late November. That’s when a local entrepreneur claiming to represent new owners introduced himself to state housing officials and began pressing for funding for renovations and a new lease with the state.
A recent Boston Globe investigation found that Mota is being sued by creditors and vendors in 10 lawsuits totaling more than $500,000. As CEO of his entertainment company, VirtualCons, and his cryptocurrency, VirtualCoin, Mota has left furious investors and vendors in multiple states. As CEO of Skyline at Waterplace in Providence, Mota’s company has been months late with rent payments to the city of Providence, and was temporarily closed for not paying taxes.
Mota introduced himself to Rhode Island state officials a few days after the November water leak. He told them that he was the president of a publicly traded company, Bayport International Holdings, that was helping the property’s owner with a “voluntary foreclosure” related to money owed to a bank in Puerto Rico. The Globe investigation found that Bayport is “dark or defunct” and has been labeled “Caveat Emptor,” or “buyer beware,” according to OTC markets. But Mota said he has a $50 million to $90 million redevelopment plan for the former hospital property.
State housing officials recently toured the former hospital and discussed having families move back in. Pryor would not answer questions from the Globe Tuesday about whether the Housing Department was moving forward with plans for the former hospital, including possible condemnation of the property, but reiterated that “all options are on the table.”
Pryor’s spokesman Joseph Lindstorm said Wednesday morning that the Department of Housing had no new grant agreement or other financial arrangement with Amos House to pay for a new lease at the former hospital.
“The situation is of significant concern,” Pryor said Wednesday in a follow-up statement to the Globe regarding Memorial Hospital. “All options are on the table, including condemnation. We are actively exploring alternatives to the status quo.”
According to emails obtained by the Globe, Mota has been pushing state housing officials to assist him with finding grants and other assistance to fund the renovations of the hospital, and to draft a new lease with Amos House. Mota also sent receipts of the renovation work to the state. Amos House is listed on one of the building permits.
“We do not yet have a lease. I am not sure of the timeframe. We are still at a hotel in Warwick,” Eileen Hayes, president and CEO of Amos House, told the Globe in an email on Wednesday morning.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Special Commission to Study the Low and Moderate Income Housing, Margaux Morisseau, the deputy director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, asked Pryor about plans for immediate solutions for people who are homeless, including plans for the former hospital.
“I heard Memorial Hospital would be reopening at the end of the month,” Morisseau said. “Can you confirm that’s happening?”
Pryor’s response to Morisseau was careful and vague. “I would not commit to anything you said about the timeline,” he responded. “I will say we are exploring a whole array of options.”
This story has been updated with a comment from Eileen Hayes, and new statements from Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor.
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.