E.P. Council backs plan to finally raze old Riverside school buildings

Long dormant structures will be demolished, single family homes likely to be built

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/23/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — If everyone’s math was near correct, an eyesore that has been lingering for nearly four decades in the heart of a Riverside neighborhood will soon be addressed after the …

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E.P. Council backs plan to finally raze old Riverside school buildings

Long dormant structures will be demolished, single family homes likely to be built

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — If everyone’s math was near correct, an eyesore that has been lingering for nearly four decades in the heart of a Riverside neighborhood will soon be addressed after the City Council at its Tuesday, Oct. 20, meeting approved a resolution authorizing the administration to enter into an agreement to raze the former Platt-Waters and Burnside school buildings.

The structures, which have sat completely idol since the district moved its central office to City Hall back in 2014, are located on 80 Burnside Avenue and 33 Hoppin Avenue.

With its action, the council gave Mayor Bob DaSilva the authority to engage the lowest bidding through a recent Request For Proposal (RFP) process, A.A. Asbestos Abatement Co., Inc., to demolish both structures for $318,250. An additional $14,000 will be needed specifically for asbestos removal. The project is being funded through a Capital Improvement Fund line item in the amount of $450,000 previously approved by the council.

“I think this is finally the win-win solution for what has been a long, not neglected, but a long standing project for two abandoned school buildings,” said resolution sponsor At-Large member Bob Rodericks, who as former school department employee once worked in one of the buildings. “I understand the decrepit nature of it…I finally think this is the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see any downside to us finally moving on this.”

The last time a council took up the matter was in 2018. That summer, numerous existing homeowners in the area balked at a proposal made by a developer to construct 33 condominium units at the site. A few months later, the same developer submitted a plan to build some 16 single-family homes, but was also rebuffed by residents and elected officials.

Riverside native and Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon noted the school department formally deeded the property back to the city in 2014 during his first meeting as member of the School Committee. He also said when he was a fourth grader at Waddington Elementary, students from the Platt-Watters were transitioned there. He said he is 45 now, meaning that consolidation took place 36 years ago or about 1984.

“It’s been that long since school stuff has gone on in those buildings. They’re dumps. They need to come down,” Mr. Cahoon added.

Asked by Mr. Rodericks, Planning and Economic Development Director Bill Fazioli told the council at the moment the plan is to divide the roughly two-acre parcel into nine to 11 individual lots. He said the single family lot zoning in the neighborhood is 7,500 square feet.

Mr. Fazioli added residents living in the area have expressed a preference to keep the lots smaller, larger ones being “out of a character with neighborhood.”

In response to a question from Ward 4 Councilor Ricardo Mourato, in whose district the property is located, Mr. Fazioli said at the moment the city desires to sell the lots on a one-by-one basis, but has not ruled out selling it entirely to a lone developer.

Mr. Cahoon inquired about the ability to maintain some of the properties as affordable housing. Mr. Fazioli said it was within the council’s authority to deem the lots in that manner, aiming them at median income buyers through deed restriction, which could be done in perpetuity.

The director, who doubles as Waterfront Commission chairman, said the city would have to follow Rhode Island Housing Authority guidelines, which set the price of each property at 80 percent of median income of area residents. He added it’s an approach employed by the Waterfront Commission.

No timetable was determined on the start of demolition. Both Messrs. Rodericks and Fazioli said once vacant, however, the grounds would be seeded with grass and left in good appearance until such time construction takes place.

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