In many ways the recent grand opening of Tockwotton on the Waterfront serves as a pivotal moment for East Providence. Originally announced in 2004, this facility was among one of the initial projects intended for construction within the City’s newly formed Waterfront District.
Fortunately, the officials of Tockwotton shared our vision of capitalizing on this incredibly underutilized asset for the City. Now that the project is complete it has been an impetus for further undertakings which are presently taking hold in the District south of US 195. In fact, there has been an almost immediate spike in interest in several adjacent buildings that have been vacant for years.
This endeavor also illustrates a wonderful example for our City in the value of perseverance. The Tockwotton team encountered many challenges during the course of this venture. There were numerous obstacles that had to be overcome and at each turn the development team had to renew its commitment to their goal. It would have been relatively easy for them to move on and choose another path for their new facility. Despite these temporary tribulations, however, their belief in this mission never waned; in fact, their commitment only grew stronger. The Tockwotton executive staff and Board should be commended for their display of inspiring determination in the face of adversity.
This enduring effort can serve as a beacon for East Providence.
More than ever it is important that the City maintain this momentum in moving forward with the meaningful development of the waterfront. As our ability to control certain aspects of our City’s character has been diminished in recent years the City now has a unique opportunity to shape the future of East Providence.
At this time there are a number of projects underway at various stages of progress –some examples are the ongoing improvements to 10 New Road which will be the new home of Eaton Aerospace and a much anticipated announcement concerning a new plan for Kettle Point.
One project that we want to highlight at this time is the Village on the Waterfront, (VOTW), which is taking shape just south of the Tockwotton property. This is a 25 acre site currently owned by Chevron and served as a petroleum storage facility from 1909-1984. Fortunately the current owners have expressed a strong desire to redevelop this property into a $200 million mixed use residential and commercial development. Ultimately, the development will include several recreational amenities including a fishing pier, kayak launch, an extension of the East Bay Bike Path and public access to the coast line.
This ambitious development has completed several major stages of permitting including the Waterfront Commission, Coastal Resources Management Council, RI DEM and RI DOT. Work on the site currently consists of excavation of property along Providence River and remediation efforts. Construction on the residential units is expected to begin in 2014. The developers have invested a substantial amount of time, resources and money into this project, which was approved by the Waterfront Commission in 2009.
From a fiscal perspective, the project will have significant impact. In Phase I alone, it is estimated that 2,000 construction jobs will be generated during construction. In addition, after full build out of the project, the estimated taxes generated to the City will increase from the current amount of approximately $60,000 to over $2,500,000.
One reason for success was the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement between VOTW and the City that was approved in 2011. This agreement provided funds for necessary water/sewer and road improvements required for development to take place. Fortunately proper safeguards were put in place to safeguard the City so that no existing revenues were pledged to this development. In fact, financing commences only after improvements are made and financed initially by developer which minimizes risk to City. In other words, a portion of the new tax revenues from this project will be obligated only after the private developer pays for these improvements upfront. Most notable is that the City’s general fund will still realize an increase in net revenues even after paying for these public improvements.
Village on the Waterfront is a wonderful example of how East Providence can create a new sense of vitality and vibrancy in our community. With recent headlines of how the State of Rhode Island continues to lose population, this type of development can attract new residents by creating appealing and desirable places to live and work
— By William Fazioli
Mr. Fazioli is the chairman of the East Providence Waterfront Commission.