Chuck Royce is no angel. Or at least that is what the residents of the small town of Westerly are telling the New York Times
. The Gray Lady reports that the founder of Legg Mason's Royce Funds has become something of a mystery to the residents of the Rhode Island town that sits near the Connecticut border.
Royce, it seems, has been buying local property as development projects only to take a long time to put the plans into action. The lack of action has some town residents questioning the efforts from the "bow-tied Wall Street financier in the fedora" and even the local Westerly paper calls Royce "difficult to pin down and a tough man to interview."
His flagship project -- which the paper admits is complete -- is the Ocean House. The Watch Hill resort and condominium opened last summer after Royce spent a reported $140 million on its refurbishment along with $12 million to buy the historic property. The paper also reports that experts advised Royce that the project was not a good one to take on.
It is the dozen plus additional projects that Royce's W.H. Properties has acquired in Westerly's historic district and another nine purchased through Westerly Land Trust (controlled by the Royce Family fund) that has locals scratching their heads.
The paper echos a local real estate blogger
when it adds that Royce plans to "refashion the river frontage along Main Street to create a more attractive gateway into downtown, with a riverfront boardwalk, shops and upper-floor residences." That area has been "dominated by auto service shops and strip plazas," it adds.
"He has a right to do whatever he wants with his property," town resident Randall Saunders tells the paper. "What I donít like is making all these promises and then five, six years go by and nothingís happened."
Royce has won more flattering coverage from the local paper, The Westerly Sun
, which plugged his "passion for philanthropy" in an article
In the end, the on-the-record Royce takes the high road with the locals:
"As I've gotten to know Westerly," he told the Sun
, "I've grown more and more attached."
Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief
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