We all knew this was coming eventually, but Brown and Johnson and Wales have now officially made their play for their piece of the coming 195 land. The Projo has the details about House Majority Whip Peter F. Kilmartin’s (D-Pawtucket) legislation authorizing the state DOT to sell the two universities 6 of the 19 acres of the 195 land at “market prices.” The rub is that the deal would bypass the public bidding process typical of state land sales. J&W wants about 2 acres for a new hospitality school and dorms and Brown wants the rest for new several biotech centers to compliment the medical school, which will be relocated there to renovated space.
The argument being made is that if such a move is made now (before, actually, the state’s plan for the 195 plan has been released) that it’ll allow Brown, J&W, and the city to all team up, do some planning, and create a strong neighborhood product to sell to private industry. The key quote from Richard Spies, Brown’s vice president for planning, is:
“This allows other private investors to make plans knowing that at least two anchor tenants are in place,” he said. “It gives the state and the city the best overall chance of success by getting us as quickly as possible to critical mass.”
I strongly recommend reading the Projo article for all the details.
The key questions for all of you reading are:
- Do you support any university involvement on the 195 land at all?
- If so, do you support this plan? If not, how should the universities be involved?
- Is Richard Spies right, that having the universities as “anchor tenants” makes this an easier sell to industry?
My opinion is that if done right (something Providence doesn’t have a great track record doing), Spies could be correct. This means that before Brown and J&W are allow to buy this land that they should present the public with a plan for how they will turn this area into a vibrant, compelling, 24 hour a day mixed use neighborhood. Not just a promise, but renderings, architecture, buildings, retail, amenities, interaction with transit, the works… And why no public bidding process?
Basically, I want the plan to be in place before the action is taken rather than the old RI way of acting first with promises, hoping everyone will plan and do the right thing, then holding no one accountable when nothing happens as desired. My yell-able phrase for this now is, “Before a plan, no land!”…
Sound off in the comments section!