PBN reports today that Carpionato Properties, Inc. has missed a crucial deadline in their work on the proposed Hampton Inn on Division Street in Pawtucket. The project was announced in 2004 with the first 100 of a planned 200 rooms said to open in 2005. 2005 came and went with no work on the site. In 2007 some site work started, a fence went up, and a sign went up stating that the hotel would open in 2008.
It is now 2009 and according to an agreement with the city of Pawtucket (who sold the land to Carpionato for $1), the first 100 rooms were to be open by July 10th or the ownership of the property would revert back to the city. The Bucket Blog reported that the city reviewed the issue in June with the developer seeking a two year extension, the request being sent to committee for review. PBN reports the city will have a decision on whether to grant an extension or take back the property and seek new proposals for development within 30 days. The Pawtucket Foundation is urging the city to exercise its right to take back the property.
Aside from the current poor economic climate in the state, in the past Carpionato has claimed that the imminent rebuilding of the adjacent Pawtucket River Bridge would negatively impact the proposed hotel.
If ever built, the hotel will certainly be a positive contribution to the Pawtucket tax base, and will be a good re-use of a vacant parcel within the city. The city also wants the redevelopment to serve as an anchor for the riverwalk along the Blackstone. Pawtucket already has a highway-side hotel across the way however, the Comfort Inn on George Street. While Pawtucket struggles to reinvigorate its Downtown, a downtown hotel could go a long way towards achieving that goal. A hotel on one of the parking lots across from Slater Mill would serve downtown Pawtucket itself, and not be simply a roadside hotel for Providence like the many Holiday Inn Expresses and Super 8’s found in suburbs throughout the metro.
Of course Pawtucket’s labyrinthine streets provide a barrier to developers wanting to place a hotel downtown (if such a developer even existed). While Downtown Pawtucket continues to be very much a work in progress and a there without a lot of there there yet, any hotel development will have to also rely on overflow from the Providence market (especially low price overflow), so easy access to the highway is essential.
While the economy is in the toilet as it is, there is really no need to keep banging away at this endlessly wheel spinning project. Indeed the bridge construction probably will be an issue, meaning any two-year extension will likely become a four-year extension and then who knows, some scaled back project the city didn’t really envision..? The city should take back this property, work on the proposals underway to try to start detangling the downtown street grid (I use grid for lack of a better term, there’s nothing grid about Pawtucket’s streets), and revisit what this site should be. Should a roadside hotel really be the anchor for a riverwalk park? Wouldn’t the city really rather try to score a downtown hotel? What sort of imaginative mixed use project is actually better suited for this location? The city has an opportunity wherein they own this parcel, sure it would be good to get the tax money that a developed property would bring in, but ownership allows the city to take time and be considerate of what ends up on this parcel.