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Providence rejects lease transfer for Skyline at Waterplace, going ahead with eviction trial

Mayor Smiley says he wants a solution that benefits residents and visitors

Skyline at Waterplace Park in Providence. (Carlos R. Muñoz / Globe Staff) Carlos R. Muñoz / Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — The city Board of Park Commissioners rejected a proposal on Monday for Skyline at Waterplace to transfer its lease of the city-owned downtown venue to a new East Greenwich-based company.

That now sends Skyline to an eviction trial in Superior Court on March 1.

Mayor Brett Smiley, who chairs the board, did not elaborate on the commissioners’ reasoning for denying the lease transfer. “The Skyline space is an important asset to Providence’s downtown, and I remain committed to moving forward through the legal process to find a solution for this space that benefits Providence residents and visitors,” Smiley said in an emailed statement.

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Matthew Tsimikas, the principal of Ithaka LLC, which offered to take over the lease, declined to comment on the record about what his proposal entailed.

Tsimikas arrived 40 minutes late to the commissioners’ meeting. Neither Skyline’s CEO, Michael A. Mota, or its lawyer, Michael Lepizzera, attended.

While Skyline is up to date on its rent, its 2024 liquor license hasn’t been issued, because of several outstanding items, according to the mayor’s spokesman.

Mota’s wife, Jodi Mota, told the license board on Jan. 31 that Skyline didn’t have another event scheduled until Feb. 23.

“Hopefully, the lease will be transferred over to the new owner next week, so that’s why we have not applied for the liquor license,” Jodi Mota told the board last month. “We’re just trying to decide if we’re going to reapply within the next week, or if he’s going to get his own license. ... So, just putting it on hold to see the best course of action.”

The matter was continued to Feb. 22.

The city has been trying to evict Skyline from the Waterplace Park venue since last April, after years of problems including late rent payments, unpaid taxes, fire code violations, outside trash, unpaid vendors and employees, and ongoing friction with city officials.

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Michael Mota has insisted that the city owes Skyline for “overpaid” rent. While a District Court judge cleared the way last fall for the city to evict Skyline, the company appealed to Superior Court.

Under various operators for years, this venue with stunning views of Waterplace Park had been a destination for weddings, political events, and celebrations. The land is owned by the state, but the facility is leased and managed by the city.

The Skyline group began leasing the building in 2016, and at one time, Michael Mota proposed building an amphitheater and ornate Bellagio-style fountains in Waterplace Park.

After the pandemic hit, Skyline received more than $1.8 million in federal COVID relief funds. Around that time, Michael Mota used the facility to launch and sponsor events for his new Hollywood mobster-entertainment and events company, VirtualCons, and his cryptocurrency, VirtualCoin, neither of which are still operational.

Skyline, where Mota’s father-in-law, Joseph Ricci, and wife are involved, has had few events over the last year.



Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.