East Providence’s Waterfront District is on an economic development roll
Established in 2004 by special State-approved enabling legislation, the East Providence Waterfront Commission’s overarching goal has been to facilitate the transformation of the East Providence waterfront into a model of urban revitalization.
Now 10 years later, the Commission has demonstrated a proven track record of promoting a variety of economic development activities that have made substantial impacts to our City. First, from a residential perspective, the Ross Commons project in Rumford is a wonderful story of” smart growth”; second, in terms of commercial activity, the Commission successfully worked with Aspen Aerogels, a leading high-skill manufacturer of ultra-thin aerogel insulation, to establish their primary facility at an abandoned gypsum plant. Most recently, from a recreational point of view, the Commission has leveraged funds to redevelop Squantum Woods into a splendid urban park.
Currently, our work continues with several major development projects; the East Providence Waterfront District is showing the rest of the state how it’s done.
Major ongoing developments include:
Tockwotton Home, a $53 million, 148-bed nursing and assisted living center that will employ one hundred people and will be open for business in December 2012. This impressive first-class facility has provided much-needed construction jobs to area residents as well as generating over $200,000 in building permit fees for the City.
Waterfront Drive’s Dexter Road Connector segment, which connects the completed segment at Warren Ave. to Dexter Road, a $6.6 million project that will be completed in November of 2012 and will help move truck and other traffic off local streets between I-195 and Dexter Rd. Funding for this important roadway was provided with a combination of funds from the US Economic Development Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the City. This new road stretches 1.4 miles and will open up the development possibilities to several parcels that were previously inaccessible.
Eaton Corporation, currently located in Warwick, is relocating to East Providence at 10 New Road, thanks to a $5 million US Economic Development Administration grant obtained by the Commission. The flooding of March 2010 forced the company to look for another location: the grant will help the company to re-open in the City in 2013. This is a significant project not just for City but for State, since Eaton was exploring sites outside of Rhode Island. Immediate benefits to City include $45,000 in building and fire permit revenues and $180,000 in previously uncollected back taxes being realized in the
City’s general fund for the current fiscal year. This move also sets the stage for the potential redevelopment of additional space at the 10 New Road complex.
Village on the Waterfront, a 25-acre site owned by Chevron, is currently readying the site for $200 million project with 600 market-rate residential units and providing 100 permanent and 200 construction jobs in Phase One. Once completed, this development will be considered as a prototype for other brownfield initiatives in New England.
A new developer for Kettle Point has proposed 436 new residential units in a project that will be over fifty percent open space and will also have access and parking for the East Bay Bike Path and public access to the beautiful Point itself.
Our Green Business Loan Program (administered with funds from the US Small Business Administration) provides low-interest loans up to $75,000 for energy efficient equipment; improve energy-efficiency of buildings for expansion of existing businesses and the growth of new businesses within the Waterfront District. The first loan has already been made to a new business scheduled to move to East Providence in late 2012.
70 Pawtucket Avenue will soon have a new tenant, Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, and will employ approximately 35 full- and part-time employees.
Over time, many of these businesses — especially Tockwotton — will draw auxiliary businesses to them, adding even more employment In fact there has been a spike in interest in several properties within very close proximity of the new Tockwotton home.
One of the major reasons for this success is the attitude in the District for doing business. We have worked hard to accommodate the needs of developers through our expedited 45-day review period, along with hands-on assistance from the Executive Director, staff, and Commission.
Along with our willingness to do business, the Commission has made economic growth in our city a priority while preserving our Townie atmosphere. There is a quality-of-life in East Providence that continues to appeal to companies and employees.
The East Providence Waterfront District has matters well in hand to continue to develop the City’s waterfront as an economic development engine.
In closing, the Commission’s work has carved a clear path for the long tern development of this important asset as well as providing for some much-needed near term benefits to East Providence during its current fiscal challenges.
— By William J. Fazioli
Mr. Fazioli is the chairman of the East Providence Waterfront District Commission.