E.P. Waterfront Commission hears initial concepts for ‘East Pointe’ redevelopment

“Ivy Place” project off Taunton Avenue gains approvals, nears actuality

By Mike Rego
Posted 11/20/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — If the initial concepts come to fruition, then the very long wait to see the site of the former Ocean State Steel plant off Roger Williams Avenue in Rumford adjacent to …

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E.P. Waterfront Commission hears initial concepts for ‘East Pointe’ redevelopment

“Ivy Place” project off Taunton Avenue gains approvals, nears actuality

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — If the initial concepts come to fruition, then the very long wait to see the site of the former Ocean State Steel plant off Roger Williams Avenue in Rumford adjacent to Phillipsdale Landing redeveloped may have actually been worth it.

At its virtual meeting Thursday evening, Nov. 19, the East Providence Waterfront Commission heard from the Providence-based real estate firm of Churchill & Banks, representing the company seeking ownership of the approximately 30-acre parcel, Noble Development, LLC.

The preliminary plan calls for splitting the land into two distinct sections: the “coastal” and “inland” lots. The coastal proposal, taking its name from its proximity to the Seekonk River, would include mixed residential units of single family and townhouse/duplex residences. Important to the design, it would also afford the city community at-large access to the river’s shoreline.

Referred to by the local officials as “East Pointe” but also known as “Greenwood Point,” body chair and City Planning and Economic Development Director Bill Fazioli noted the location, which was one of the first spots to come under the commission’s auspices upon its seating in the early 2000s, has “languished” and “become a real nuisance in the area.”

He cited the property being mired for years in several court cases, including one with the prior developer GeoNova, and was eventually placed under receivership by the courts. A “special master” was installed and remains to oversee actions on the land.

Richard Baccari, of Churchill & Banks who is also the lead developer at Kettle Point, gave a wide-ranging overview of the owner’s abstract for the long-dormant location.

Mr. Baccari said the vision for the site is to create two “villages,” coastal and inland. The first phase would focus on the larger “coastal” plan with its blend of residential styles and what he called “ample” public walking paths and sitting areas. The proposal as well includes parking spots for 30-40 cars spread out across the location for use by the general community to access the open spaces.

Previous attempts at redevelopment, he continued, have received tentative approval from the voluminous state agencies with some sort of oversight specific to the property, among them the Public Utilities Commission which has supervision of the railroad crossing on site. Also, Noble Development is reducing the total number of residences in earlier proposals from about 500 to between 330-370. The “inland” village, abutting Omega Pond, would potentially be made up of primarily of apartment units.

“This is definitely a preliminary plan. I’m sure it’s going to change as we go through the design,” Mr. Baccari said, adding, like at Kettle Point, the target market for the residences is the older, “empty-nester audience.”

Key to the effort, though, is the special master has given the developers just a nine-month window to get project approved by all the relevant governing agencies, a timeline Mr. Baccari said “is like warp speed in Rhode Island” considering how many state and local entities are involved.

Mr. Baccari concluded his presentation saying he believed it was a reasonable first bite, adding how it would open up the property to the public and likely assist with the continued resurgence of Phillipsdale Landing.

Kettle Point approval

Also from the November 19 meeting, the full body unanimously accepted and approved a recommendation provided by its Design Review Commission subgroup to support amended concepts for the last six buildings to be constructed at the Kettle Point site located off Veterans Memorial Parkway.

Once conceived as vertical, three-level townhouses, the residences will still be divided into 12 units as approved earlier, but the design has changed to accommodate what is called “single-level living.” Instead of three vertical floors, each of the homes will access a garage/multi-purpose room on the first level, while the second and third horizontal spaces will be wholly owned by the occupants.

Ivy Place approval

Lastly from November 19, the commission adopted the Design Review Committee and Hearing Panel advisory opinions for “Ivy Place,” the proposed mixed-use development of the now vacant parcel across from City Hall on Taunton Avenue.

The non-profit Woonsocket Neighborhood Development Corporation is the developer. The design calls for constructing nine residential townhouses on Ivy Street and four live/work units facing Taunton Avenue on the roughly half-acre lot.

According to the developers, the design of the Ivy Street homes will take inspiration from the neighborhood and the Taunton Avenue tract will be styled with commercial space on the ground floor topped by apartments as is the case with the rest of the adjacent buildings along the road.

The project is being funded by multiple government and for-profit entities, including the commission, which previously approved earmarking “in lieu” of funds from other developments in the city for use on affordable housing efforts. (Affordable housing units are eligible to buyers who earn up to 80% of the area median income, or AMI, adjusted for family size.)

Chris Martin, Waterfront Commission Executive Director, noted the body approved $743,500 for the plan. Each of the 13 Ivy Place units will be marketed as owner-occupied.

The aim of the developers is to have all funding in place just after the new year with a further goal of groundbreaking in spring 2021.

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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.