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E.P. Waterfront Commission gives conditional fund approval to Sutton Avenue project

Responds to criticism over potential role in Metacomet proposal

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/21/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Used quite a bit currently as a foil by critics in the on-going attempt to potentially redevelop the Metacomet Golf Club, the East Providence Waterfront Commission held its …

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E.P. Waterfront Commission gives conditional fund approval to Sutton Avenue project

Responds to criticism over potential role in Metacomet proposal


EAST PROVIDENCE — Used quite a bit currently as a foil by critics in the on-going attempt to potentially redevelop the Metacomet Golf Club, the East Providence Waterfront Commission held its most recent meeting late last month with the pending review of the controversial matter as a backdrop.

Marshall Properties LLC intends to purchase the 138-acre course and is attempting to have the land rezoned for mixed use and transfer oversight of the process to the commission. The City Council is slated to make a decision on the matter at a public hearing scheduled for Friday evening, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. in the East Providence High School auditorium.

Opponents of the proposal have often cited their dismay that the appointed commission and not elected officials will serve as the main reviewing body going forward if the council supports the applicant’s requests.

Responding to the criticism, commission chairman Bill Fazioli, who is also the Planning and Economic Development director for the city, has been quick to point out the council as well as the Planning Board would still be keenly involved in the process even if initial oversight is taken up by the Waterfront Commission.

With that in mind, Mr. Fazioli spent the first few minutes of the commission’s August meeting providing members and those viewing virtually due to health and safety mandates implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic a historical overview of the body, how it started and the principles it follows.

He also emphasized 10 of the 11 voting members of the commission are city residents, a number, he noted, detractors of the Metacomet proposal have often incorrectly cited.

“I think it’s important people understand what the Waterfront Commission is all about, what our charge is and how we adhere to that,” Mr. Fazioli said of his rationale for revisiting the basics of the body and attempting to dispel inaccuracies about it at the moment.

Sutton Place
The commission was presented with some existing proposals to consider, including the dispersal of “in-lieu” funds it holds from developments like Kettle Point for use on other affordable housing projects.

The commission gave conditional support to releasing $200,000 of those funds to One Neighborhood Builders in its attempt to refurbish 54-60 Sutton Ave., the two-building complex off Broadway known as “Sutton Place.” Approval is contingent upon One Neighborhood receiving additional funding from Rhode Island Housing.

Jennifer Hawkins, speaking on behalf of One Neighborhood, told the commission the effort to renovate Sutton Place will see the group spend approximately $5 million total. She said the non-profit is focused on creating “vibrant, healthy neighborhoods,” that it has done most of its work in Providence and was now looking to expand.

In all, 36 apartments would be available at Sutton Place, 22 studios and 14 one-bedrooms. The units would feature new bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens as well as new roofs.

Ms. Hawkins said they would be maintained as modest income. She added most current residents earn 80 percent of AMI (Area Median Income), adding some may not, but the requirement would be implemented upon future transfer of units.

Mr. Fazioli explained the land is deed restricted and must remain affordable. He continued, expressing his support of the proposal, “We’re looking forward to having that property stabilized…It’s a major component of Sutton Avenue.”

Upon receiving funding from the state and local entities, Ms. Hawkins said the aim of One Neighborhood is to close financing by the end of the year and begin reconstruction in January 2021.

New director
The commission was formally introduced to the body’s new executive director Chris Martin, who took over the role recently after Pam Sherrill resigned earlier this summer following three years in the position.

Mr. Martin has been assisting with the commission and Planning Department for about a year, according to Mr. Fazioli. He returned to Rhode Island from a prior stint working in New York City. Mr. Fazioli cited his efforts on the noted “DUMBO” District in Brooklyn, calling the redevelopment there “innovative.”

According to an article on the subject in The New York Times, “DUMBO” is an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” an area between the Brooklyn Bridge, Bridge Street, York Street and the East River. In the article, residents there referred to the location “as an island, cut off from points south by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.” It was transformed in recent years into a hub for tech companies and the arts.

“Chris brings a whole different perspective to the position based on his experience in Brooklyn. He was very involved with biking and pedestrian issues. We’re very fortunate to have someone with that type of background on commission,” Mr. Fazioli said.

The chairman lauded the performance of Ms. Sherrill, who took on the executive director position in June 2017.

“Pam did a great job during her time here,” Mr. Fazioli said. “She was instrumental in a lot of development that occurred over the years, including Phillipsdale Landing where we completely revised zoning. It led to a rebirth of the facility. When we started it was at 20 percent occupancy and now it’s over 75 percent.”

Other updates
Mr. Martin told the commission the owner of “The Residences at Bold Point,” currently being built at 30 Veterans Memorial Parkway, is beginning the process of developing more projects. He said PKL Ventures LLC is looking to merge three other lots into Waterfront District.

Additionally, he reminded the commission about the recent announcement that Rhode Island Waterfront Entertainment has received $15 million in state grant funding towards its effort to redevelop the old the Providence & Worcester Railroad property at the South Quay. The mixed use plan would see a permanent concert venue built and potentially as well a staging area for offshore wind-energy development.

And also on the topic of “in lieu” funds, Mr. Martin noted monies are earmarked for the Ivy Place project proposed off of Taunton Avenue and the commission would soon receive another $129,000 of “in lieu” payments from AR Builders, once the latest building being constructed at Kettle Point, referred to as “No. 5,” receives a certificate of occupancy.

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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