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Marshall gets a bit more specific about Metacomet redevelopment plans

Developers present renderings for converting golf course to mixed-use property

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/18/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — With both parties, the potential proprietor and the public, seemingly entrenched in their positions, a third in a series of what it has deemed “community outreach” …

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Marshall gets a bit more specific about Metacomet redevelopment plans

Developers present renderings for converting golf course to mixed-use property


EAST PROVIDENCE — With both parties, the potential proprietor and the public, seemingly entrenched in their positions, a third in a series of what it has deemed “community outreach” meetings was conducted virtually Thursday evening, Sept. 17, by Marshall Properties LLC about its intention to redevelop the Metacomet Golf Club off Veterans Memorial Parkway.

The effort covered much of the same territory as during previous gatherings between the sides as well as discussion held on the matter by the City Council. New to the process last week were some actual conceptual drawings of the latest proposal, which Marshall refers to as its preferred “Plan A.” It also authored a preliminary second option, “Plan B,” which included a rather bland, sterile alternative, though one that could be completed under existing city mandates.

Marshall is seeking to rezone the 138-acre parcel to mixed use from its current open space designation and also have it placed under the auspices of the East Providence Waterfront Commission.

The existing zoning assignment, included in the company’s “Plan B” option, offers a broad swathe of buildings and businesses that could be housed on the grounds of the near-century old course. Marshall's preferred option is to construct residential and commercial components along with a publicly accessed area along the Watchemoket Cove, which it is calling “live, work, play.”

The developer and residents, notably the grass roots group "Keep Metacomet Green,” have continued to clash in recent months since Marshall announced its plans to build on the land earlier this year.

Representatives for the company last week once again stressed Marshall’s long connection to development in the city and what they said was a willingness of their client to engage with the community. Again, however, that did little to assuage the majority of those who participated in the virtual meeting and remained opposed to the proposal because of traffic, environmental and what they consider other quality of life concerns.

At one point late in the proceedings, Zach Darrow, from the real estate law office of DarrowEverett representing Marshall, said “compromise can be met with compromise”…but for some currently in opposition of the proposal, at least, “compromise can’t be met with ‘just go away.’”

Marshall reiterated its intention to move the purchase and sale process with the club’s current owners forward regardless if the rezoning request is approved. The company will forge ahead with what it can construct per set zoning, which representatives said were such things as a hospital, an educational campus or a sportsmen’s club. The developer is referring to this path as the “Plan B” option.

Through a press release issued September 15 and in a two-page advertisement that ran in the September 17 print edition of The East Providence Post, Marshall in essence authored an ultimatum in regard to its effort.

Saying the city had the “opportunity” to assist in the decision, the release read in part, “The Metacomet Country Club as we know it will cease to operate. There are many reasons for the club’s demise and none of them have to do with Marshall Development. The only question that remains is what will the future of Metacomet look like.”

Residents got a bit clearer view of Marshall’s vision for the land last week through illustrative renderings.

“Plan A” includes a large commercial structure the size of a typical grocery store, according to Marshall representative Matt Smith of Bohler Engineering. He continued, there were two spots for small format retail with a “main street” feel. A fourth element would be a series of townhouses with a fifth being a building for multi-unit housing. Each of the aspects included in the renderings is near the existing entrance to the club just off the parkway. The proposed structures appeared decorative, in-character with others in the neighborhood and region.

Closer to the interior of the current layout, 34 acres would be set aside for future redevelopment, which Mr. Smith said was likely a component to be done potentially 10 years down the line and be residential, market driven.

Mr. Smith added, Plan A was “...just a concept. We expect to have additional discussions with city staff and we look forward to that.”

Marshall’s preferred plan includes as well some 70 acres of publicly accessed green space for walking trails and an animal sanctuary along the cove in an area where, admittedly, the company couldn’t develop due to its topography and environmental mandates.

Also of note, representatives highlighted the large buffers between the neighborhood and the new structures Marshall would commit to include in construction, adding it would be legally obliged never to build in those zones.

“Plan B,” the representatives cautioned, would see the land redeveloped without much input from the community, would see it remain fenced in and private as it currently is and would mean less governmental oversight because necessary zoning and planning requirements are already in place.

Mr. Darrow said, Marshall looked forward to a “robust” review process for its preferred plan, though stressed none was needed under the “by-right” plan.

Attorney Bill Conley, another of the developer’s legal counsel, called what Marshall intends for the property “utterly unique” in the City of East Providence and potentially in the state, when considering the combination of publicly accessed trails and the wildlife preserve along with the residential and commercial components.

Mr. Conley, the life-long city resident and long-time politician who suffered an upset loss at the September 8 Democratic State Senate Primary likely in part due to his association with the project, also urged those with concerns to view the “lawful requirements” the developers would need to meet and the oversight procedures in place.

The matter for the moment at least is expected to come to a head this week when the City Council continues an earlier public hearing on Marshall’s request Friday night, Sept. 25. The council is likely to vote on the zone change at the meeting, which takes place at 6 p.m. in the East Providence High School auditorium and virtually through the Zoom conferencing website.

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