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Politics

Paideia Project at URI Halted

KINGSTON, R.I. – Construction of the Center of Greek studies, the Greek-Orthodox Chapel of St. Luke, and the Greek outside theater at the University of Rhode Island (URI) by the Hellenic Society Paideia, has completely stopped.

URI says that Paideia did not fulfill its promise to finish the entire project in a two-year period, and threatens to demolish the buildings that Paideia has erected – albeit partially – thus far.

In an August 30 letter, URI Vice President Robert Weygand wrote to Paideia President Ilias Tomazos that “although we have made repeated requests in prior correspondence, we have not heard from your other representatives of Paideia regarding the required plan to restore the site to its former condition. As stated earlier, the detailed plan must be approved by this office and contain an expeditious time frame for completion.

“We must receive the requested restoration plan within thirty (30) days from the date of this letter. If we do not receive the plan within the time requested, we have no choice but to move forward with the demolition of the concrete foundations of the site. We will then look to Paideia for full reimbursement of all demolition and restoration costs and related expenses.”

Paideia promotes Hellenic studies, language, and culture, by establishing Greek academic programs and also by building centers, chapels, and outside theaters. Tomazos told TNH that “we asked for a meeting with the president of the University but we were not getting any answer. We retained a prominent lawyer from Rhode Island who sent a letter to the University and since then the issue has been frozen.” Tomazos also said that “we have inside information that they need the site to build a hotel on, but we don’t have anything official from the University.”

Tomazos said “we started building in 2009, we already have completed half of the project. We have spent quite a few hundred thousand dollars but we have also put personal work in it, worth more than two and one half million dollars. We have also received as donations materials, and the architectural designs. We have finished the first floor.

“We had promised to finish it in two years but we weren’t able to do that due to practical obstacles, such as change of the architectural designs and also the weather conditions that do not allow us to work continuously. To our great disappointment, the new University leadership has completely stooped us.

“The University officials claim that we have abandoned the project, which is completely false and unjust to say, because we have never abandoned it. Then they said that we didn’t pay the insurance, which proved to be false because we always paid it on time. Then they wanted to see us collect two million dollars. We had a meeting with Vice President Robert Weygand and other officials and I told them ‘please stop saying that we turned our back to this project because it is impossible for us to turn our back to our language, culture, faith, history and certainly to our children. The second thing that I request from you is to stop talking about demolition of the project because no donor will give us any donation when there is the threat of demolition.’”

Tomazos also said that no one at Paideia wanted to go to the court.

He said “now we go around to the Greek-American Community and we say that we don’t want money now, because the project has stopped. What we need is your pledge to help us when we start building again.

“Ted Spyropoulos pledged $100,000, Chris Tomaras $10,000, Vasilis Matarangas $10,000, Paul Kotrotsios $2,000, and Christos Christakis $10,000.”

Tomazos believes that “the building of the project will start again.” He said “we don’t want to have any animosity with the University.”

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