Housing developments in East Providence gain traction

“Ivy Place,” Reardon Avenue projects are boosted by recent events

By Mike Rego
Posted 1/16/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Two planned housing developments in city have moved further down the road to actual construction in recent weeks.The “Ivy Place” residential project planned at the …

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Housing developments in East Providence gain traction

“Ivy Place,” Reardon Avenue projects are boosted by recent events

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE (Updated, Jan. 17, 11:30 a.m.) — Two planned housing developments in city have moved further down the road to actual construction in recent weeks.

The “Ivy Place” residential project planned by Demeter LLC at the corner of Ivy Street and Taunton Avenue in the center of the city received a boost at the close of 2019 when it was included in a batch of Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston (FHLBank Boston) grants, loans and interest-rate subsidies in the amount of over $57.5 million to support 37 affordable housing initiatives in New England.

Delivered through Bank Rhode Island (BankRI), the subsidy for the project is $295,000. Ivy Place will include a total of 13 first-time homebuyer units. Of those, six will be offered to households earning below 60% of the area median income (AMI). Four will target buyers earning below 80% AMI and the other three will be listed as full market-rate units.

The homes will be part of a mixed-use development that includes live-work space for small entrepreneurs. The grants and loans can be used to help pay for construction, acquisition or rehabilitation costs. Bank of Rhode Island will provide construction financing for Ivy Place.

The Ivy Place proposal dates back to 2017 when contractors AR Builders, of Pittsburgh, Penn., made the first of what would be two approaches to the East Providence Waterfront Commission, seeking to completely eliminate the affordable units component from the Kettle Point “luxury” development off Veterans Memorial Parkway.

On both occasions, AR agreed to pay so-called “in lieu of fees,” those monies, just under $1 million total, to be directed specifically to the Ivy Place plan. The commission eventually approved the changes, removing the minimum 10 percent affordable aspect of the Kettle Point project with AR acquiescing to make two payments in the amount of $488,000 each to do so.

At the time, when AR made its second query to the commission in 2018, the decision was met with some pushback by administrators, who were concerned about residential access to waterfront properties by potential owners of all income levels.

However, Waterfront Commission Chairman Bill Fazioli, now also East Providence’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, stood by the determination of his body.

“For me, the use of the in lieu of funds for the Ivy Place project would benefit owner-occupied housing as opposed to affordable rental units. And I think once people see what's going to happen at Ivy Place, there's going to be tangible benefits to that area of Taunton Avenue,” Mr. Fazioli said in 2018. “There are no clear cut right and wrong answers. I just felt in this particular case it was an appropriate use of funds. At the end of the day, this was not an easy decision. Both sides made valid points.”

More recently, Mr. Fazioli said Demeter LLC, after long preparing to do so, finally took actual ownership of the property, formally completing the purchase and sales agreement, which should accelerate the process.

The Waterfront Commission, at its meeting on January 16, 2020, gave its necessary approval to the “Ivy Place” developers for use of the “in lieu of” funding earmarked from the aforementioned Kettle Point agreements. Demeter LLC soon expects to receive the final piece of backing from Rhode Island Housing they need to fully fund the project with an eye towards beginning construction by late this calendar year.

In addition, Mr. Fazioli said last week the proposal to build what has been deemed “an upscale housing development located on vacant land in Riverside is moving closer to fruition.

The Carpionato Group, known for its purchase of nearly all former Benny’s Store locations and its attempt to reconfigure Narragansett Park Plaza at the East Providence-Pawtucket line, has been seeking to build 21 single family homes on the approximately 10 acre parcel just off Wampanoag Trail at Reardon Avenue and Estrelle Drive. It has been pointed out during previous discussions the land is close to, but is not to be confused with the site known to many in city as the former Leonardo Farm.

Mr. Fazioli said Carpionato has in the past few weeks received final approval of its proposal from the Planning Board. The next steps include completing ground water testing and getting permits from the state Department of Environmental Management, which Mr. Fazioli and Carpionato believe should to be done in short order.

“I fully expect (Carpionato) to proceed with construction in the spring. I think they’re very eager to move the project along,” Mr. Fazioli added.

Previously when the company approached the City Council for zoning issues in 2018, Kelly Coates, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Carpionato Group, laid out his company’s vision for the site in some detail.

The footprint of the development would include two cul-de-sacs. Each property would be about 10,000 square feet in size. The homes are expected to be priced between about $300,000-$500,000 with a median cost of some $399,000. Though built mostly to spec of the owners, the homes would be two-story structures with attached garages.

Mr. Coates continued, saying they would be in constructed in what he termed a “Coastal New England” style. The siding and colors would reflect upon regional traditions. He said there would “no real identity signage,” such as stones or walls. Carpionato would pay for the installation of all necessary utilities. Whether or not the homes had full basements was to be determined because of the land’s relatively high water table. Relatedly, drainage from the site would flow into a green space retention area prepared on the site.

Access to the homes off the Trail would only be for entry. Residents would have ingress and egress points at Reardon. Carpionato contracted the area engineering firm Pare, which has previously done similar work for the city, to conduct a traffic study, the company returning an opinion the effect would “not be detrimental” to existing patterns. He also said RIDOT has indicated initial support for its plan.

Of both plans and of East Providence’s real estate market in general, Mr. Fazioli said last week, “I think we’re going to see a lot of proposed residential development in city over the course of 2020. All indications are there is still a very strong market for homes and apartments to be built in East Providence."

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