East Providence is enjoying ‘positive, exciting’ economic development

City’s principal planner Moran reviews current, completed projects

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/18/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — During a review provided to the council at its September 17 meeting, Jim Moran, the city’s Principal Planner/ Economic Development Planner, said completed and ongoing private …

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East Providence is enjoying ‘positive, exciting’ economic development

City’s principal planner Moran reviews current, completed projects

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — During a review provided to the council at its September 17 meeting, Jim Moran, the city’s Principal Planner/ Economic Development Planner, said completed and ongoing private and public sector projects represented “very positive, very exciting times for economic development, certainly, in the City of East Providence.”

Mr. Moran’s remarks piggy-backed elements of Mayor Bob DaSilva’s Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget proposal given to the body earlier in the evening.

The long-time Planning Department employee opened his review (See attachment for complete presentation) on the reconstruction of the Henderson Bridge connecting the city with the East Side of Providence. Earlier this year, the state received federal funding to the tune of $54 million for project. It includes replacing the existing tarmac and structure as well as narrowing the vehicle lanes of travel while adding 14-foot wide pedestrian and biking paths to and from each side of the Seekonk River.

New to the plans are proposed dual roundabout exits, which Mr. Moran said are intended to provide better access to Massasoit Avenue and Waterfront Drive in city. He said the final design is expected to completed sometime this fall.

The reconstructed bridge, he added, would enhance the redevelopment opportunities of some 11 tracts of Waterfront Drive land that are “significant in size” and also could hasten refurbishment of the old Getty Terminal and Fuji Film plant on Massasoit.

Another span mentioned by Mr. Moran was the Washington Bridge on Interstate 195 and the continuing upgrade of it by the state. Mr. Moran noted the Rhode Island Department of Transportation recently revised its scheme, proposing to eliminate the Gano Street exit in Providence just over the river and replacing it with one in East Providence that would lead to Waterfront Drive and the Henderson Bridge, something the city has long sought. Mr. Moran said RIDOT has applied for some $25 million in federal funding for the project and should know if it was approved by either October or November.

“If it all comes to fruition, we would be very pleased,” Mr. Moran added about the new I-195 ramp.

Next up for discussion was the Union Oil Company of California (UNOCAL) property parallel to Veterans Memorial Parkway. Mr. Moran said the company has applied for $9.37 million in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) from the city in pursuit of its plans to construct 110 apartments, 43,000 square of retail/restaurant space, a 150-room hotel, a 375-space parking garage and a 400-seat public amphitheater. Mr. Moran said the council should soon be approached to consider the TIF regimen.

The adjacent Chevron property was also talked about, Mr. Moran saying a “number of things are happening right now.” Chevron over the past year-plus has altered its initial proposal to now include more mixed use development. The “South Quay” or “Key” portion of the land has recently been sold to Waterfront Productions, which plans to move its temporary concert venue at Bold Point Park in city to a permanent facility built at the quay.

In addition, across the parkway, Mr. Moran noted the new owners of Metacomet Country Club are expected to submit plans to augment the private golf course with residential condominiums along with other upgrades to its facilities.

Mr. Moran reminded the councilors and the public Chevron’s plans for its property can be viewed at a dedicated website, eastprovidenceharborfront.com.

The virtues of constructing a new East Providence High School were also mentioned by Mr. Moran, who said the $189.5 million project is “one of major ways to promote economic development” in the city. Among other elements, he lauded the some 10 new Science labs included in the new high school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2021, and the private sector’s appreciation of having a potential employee pool of tech and science savvy graduates.

The lower Warren Avenue section of East Providence was much discussed last Tuesday, including the recent purchase of the Odd Fellows Hall. The redevelopment of the historic structure includes retail on the lower floor and office space on the upper floor.

Mr. Moran called the prospects for the Odd Fellows an “exciting way of preserving the property,” adding the schedule of renovation is “aggressive.”

The nearby former “Hot Rides” automobile dealership is also in the midst of conversion/renovation into residential space for 22 units, 18 of which will be one-bedroom in scale. Mr. Moran said construction will start soon with expected conclusion in early 2020.

Later in the meeting, the council separately approved a resolution granting the mayor’s office authority to hire the Beta Group, Inc. for the completion of a report for the redesign Watchemoket Square in the amount of $96,730. The city will use a $75,000 grant from Commerce Rhode Island to pay for the report and $22,500 match requirement from city. Mr. Moran said that share will be derived from $144,410 provided to the city through a United States Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program Grant.

Closer to the center of the city, Mr. Moran updated the progress of the “Lofts on Taunton Avenue,” mixed use residential and commercial project, which is well underway. He said, “It is obviously going to have a major impact on improving the Taunton Avenue corridor.”

A similar project down the block at the vacant Ivy Street/Taunton Avenue parcel remains in the planning stages. The owners, who are proffering a mixed-use proposal, are negotiating with the Rhode Island Housing Authority because, in part, the project was included in the transfer of the affordable housing component requirement from Kettle Point residential development.

Other points of interest in city include the oft-planned revitalization of Riverside Square, which is being done through the Community Development office and CDBD director David Bachrach. Mr. Moran referred to the recent $70,000 grant earmarked for the project the city received from Commerce Rhode Island. Following a public meeting scheduled for September 24, Mr. Moran said the final plan and the expected improvements “would be completed sometime in the fall.”

And lastly, in Rumford, Mr. Moran updated the mixed use project overlapping Newport Avenue in East Providence and Pawtucket at the famed former Narragansett Race Track site. The proposal by owner/developer Carpionato Group has received master plan approval from both jurisdictions, but is moving slowly at this time, he said.

As a refresher, Mr. Moran told the council the project calls for construction of 100,000 square feet of office space, 240,000 sf of retail and restaurant space and and 72 residential units.

“They’re in,” Mr. Moran said, referring to the company’s commitment to project, which Carpionato has deemed the East Bay version of its Chapel View location in Cranston. “It’s just a matter of Carpionato doing a lot of projects. They work around not just Rhode Island but Massachusetts.”

Mr. Moran noted demolition and other site preparation work continues, adding, “This project, it’s definitely moving forward, it’s just a matter of the timeline.”

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.