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What’s the government up to? Press Releases

Surprisingly, there’s more going on in the city this week than my lamenting the unshoveledness of our sidewalks. A couple interesting Press Releases popped up today. First, from the Mayor’s Office:

Senator Whitehouse, Mayor Taveras plan walking tour of Providence Business Districts


PROVIDENCE – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mayor Angel Taveras will spend Monday morning visiting businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City.

Taveras and Whitehouse will take a walking tour of businesses on Hope Street, Chalkstone Avenue and Broad Street to meet directly with local business owners, discuss the challenges and opportunities they face, and hear suggestions on new policies and programs to support small businesses in Providence.

WHO: U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras
WHAT: Tour of neighborhood businesses
WHEN: Monday, January 31, 2011

TIMES and LOCATIONS:

  • 9:15 -10AM Hope Street tour led by Nanda Head of Nanda Interiors, and Asher Schofield of Frog and Toad
  • 10- 10:45AM Chalkstone Avenue tour led by Lisa Mattiello of Pranzi Catering.
  • 10:45 – 12PM Broad Street tour led by Marilyn Cepeda of Quisqueya in Action.

Nice to see the Senator and the Mayor working together and being proactive about the small business climate in the city. If you are a business owner in one of those business districts, get your questions and concerns ready.

And out of the General Assembly comes this:

Providence Senate delegation introduces bill to guide land use for reclaimed I-195 area

STATE HOUSE – The seven members of the Providence Senate delegation have introduced legislation to guide the sale, transfer and conveyance of land becoming available for development in the city as a result of the relocation of I-195.

The goal of the legislation, say its sponsors, is to ensure that the reclaimed land is used primarily to support the growth of a knowledge-based economy, due to its direct proximity to universities, hospitals and medical schools.

Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence), the prime sponsor of the bill, said that “the legislation balances the needs of the various stakeholders in the land reuse process in a way that helps to create jobs and produce new tax revenues, while growing a knowledge-based economy that will be beneficial to the City of Providence and the entire state.” Among those stakeholders, he said, are academic, medical, research and development facilities as well as hotels and/or conference centers and other commercial and residential development.

The legislation would repeal the “I-195 Redevelopment Act of 2002,” which was intended to plan for the future disposition of the surplus land, and replace it with language that ensures the eventual use of the property in a way that is most advantageous to the public interest. The legislation gives authority for the disposition of the reclaimed land to the Director of the Department of Transportation, with the approval of the State Properties Committee.

In all, more than 277,000 square feet of land – about 6.4 acres – is contained in the parcel that is being cleared with the demolition of the old I-195, as work continues to complete the relocation of the highway – the I-Way – to the south.

In addition to delineating the specific area that is becoming available, the legislation establishes a conveyance process that is fully transparent; allows for title and survey adjustments that enhance project design plans as well as providing for the location/relocation of city streets, utility corridors, easement and rights of way, and provides a payment mechanism for the City of Providence should a non-profit institution buy or lease portions of the land and fail to reach an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes.

I’m not sure how I feel about the responsibility for the dispotion of the land lying with the DOT. But I’m also not sure that the City currently has the resources to handle this themselves, the City has a lot on its plate. What do you think?

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6 Responses to What’s the government up to? Press Releases

  1. Nikos January 29, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    I really dislike the idea of wasting this great piece of land on Providence’s “knowledge based economy”. This “knowledge based economy” serves only Providence’s rich college students and the upper class people who are paid to teach them. Half of our city’s East Side and Downtown is already made up of universities that are as useful to me (the average citizen) as the pile of dirt and concrete that currently sits on this site. Living in this city is no fun when everything caters to the people that you are not.

  2. Coryndon January 29, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    The idea that the RIDOT can do this properly and in Providence’s best interest is laughable. It is an agency that is so broken I am not sure it can be reformed without scrapping it and starting over no matter how good the leadership.

    I would rather have the city take it on at least the people directly affected have direct democratic input without the influence of suburban oriented outsiders. It is the city’s jurisdiction and the state should hand control to the appropriate political entity or at least allow the city part of the decision making process vs. a state level unelected official.

  3. Peter Brassard January 29, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    One possibility could be to create a redevelopment authority that would have equal state and city representation. Such an authority would require a staff, all of which would have to be paid. It’s not likely that the city alone would want to take on that additional financial burden.

    @Nikos: The proposed knowledge-based economy will not only benefit the city’s upper class, but would benefit the entire population. A series of support job tiers would be created that would help bring up living standards for middle and lower class people as well.

    40 to 50 years ago Boston was in the same position as Providence is today, where most traditional industrial jobs had vanished. At that time the city had only a handful of iconic office towers unlike today. Knowledge-based economy jobs helped to make the Boston construction boom over the following decades possible. The result was an overall higher paying job base for every economic group and much lower unemployment during any economic cycle as compared to other regions, including Providence.

    Providence is in an unusually advantageous position with its mix of educational, medical, IT, and creative expertise. Because of that expertise new high-tech industrial jobs related to the medical industry will likely be created, as well as, intellectual ones. As pointed out in Providence Business News and in Details, Providence is one of seven U.S. cities highlighted for catching “startup fever,” which is only possible with a Knowledge-based economy. The redevelopment of the 195 land for the Knowledge-based economy will continue to fuel those startups.

    http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201102/the-new-entrepreneur-big-idea-entrepreneurial-america#slide=7

  4. jen coleslaw January 29, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I agree that we need a redevelopment authority, but I have no idea how it would be staffed and populated in any kind of “fair and balanced” way. I suppose it is possible that the city and state could create a board made out of current planners and commission members. I just don’t know. But I’m with you all regarding RIDOT. Ug!

  5. Peter Brassard January 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Maybe from the city the proposed new Director of Economic Development and the Director of DPD and the state could include the Director of the EDC and the Director of the Division of Planning or their representatives? A Chamber of Commerce representative could also be useful and there may be others. The advantage of using people that already have city or state positions is that costs could be minimized to support staff.

  6. Jef Nickerson February 1, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    The Mayor has appointed a special advisor for the 195 land development:

    Taveras appoints Zachary Darrow as special adviser on I-195 property development

    PROVIDENCE – Mayor Angel Taveras has selected attorney Zachary Darrow to serve as special adviser and counsel to the Mayor on issues related to the development of property recovered through the relocation of I-195 and the surrounding Knowledge District.

    Darrow will advise the Mayor and his team on legal, business and real estate development issues that affect how the I-195 property is brought to market and ultimately developed, as well as issues related to the overall development of the Knowledge District.

    The circumstances of the disposition and redevelopment of this property are unique in so much as that there are many stakeholders with a vested interest in the project and the surrounding areas, including Federal, State and municipal agencies, as well as many businesses and organizations located in the area.

    “The relocation of 195 is an incredible opportunity for Providence to open up new revenue generating and taxable property, attract new businesses, create good jobs, and strengthen our local and state economy. It is important that the people of Providence have strong representation in any process that guides the disposition and redevelopment of the 195 land and the overall development of the Knowledge District,” said Taveras.

    Mayor Taveras continued: “Zach Darrow has over a decade of experience focused on corporate, finance, and commercial real estate matters – as both a lawyer and a business executive. His deep knowledge of the law, business and the real estate development process will be an invaluable asset to the City of Providence as stakeholders from across the City and State continue to negotiate around a plan for the future.”

    “I am pleased that Mayor Taveras has selected such a talented business and legal professional to work with the City on issues related to the 195 relocation,” said City Council President Michael A. Solomon. “Zach Darrow will be a great advocate for the people of Providence as we work through how this property is developed and brought to market.”

    The relocation of the highway will open up roughly 35 acres in Providence, with approximately 20 acres of that property anticipated as being available for development. Since work on the 195 project began in earnest in 2002, City and State leadership have explored a series of ideas for fully maximizing the value of this unprecedented opportunity to reshape the Providence City skyline.

    Darrow will represent the City’s goals for the redevelopment of the 195 land, which include the following:

    • Deliver both short- and long-term value to the people of Providence and Rhode Island.
    • Create taxable properties that produce revenue for the City of Providence.
    • Accelerate the expansion of businesses and the creation of good jobs.
    • Bring properties to market that increase Providence’s competitiveness in attracting new business to Rhode Island, particularly businesses that enhance the growth of Rhode Island’s knowledge economy.
    • Support the expansion of existing knowledge-economy organizations located in the area, including the healthcare and education institutions that are, and will continue to be, powerful economic drivers for Providence and all of Rhode Island.
    • Create pedestrian-friendly areas that enhance the quality of life for all Providence residents and visitors to our State’s Capital City.
    • Reflect best practices in sustainable development, maximizing and protecting our natural resources.
    • Establish a clear, efficient and streamlined development process.

    “The 195 redevelopment project is a rare opportunity to significantly redefine the City of Providence’s footprint and skyline. The issues associated with this effort are complex and require great coordination and collaboration across many organizations and agencies. The results of such a well coordinated and collaborative effort will serve as a significant catalyst for economic activity and further improve the City of Providence as a place to live, conduct business, and recreate. It is a great honor to support Mayor Taveras and the City of Providence in their ongoing effort to ensure that the benefits of the 195 redevelopment yield strong results for the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island for many years to come,” said Darrow.

    Darrow is the Managing Partner of the Providence based law firm DarrowEverett LLP. Mr. Darrow’s practice focuses primarily on corporate, finance, and commercial real estate matters.

    In addition to serving on several boards of advisers, Darrow has been an Adjunct Professor for Roger Williams University School of Law since 2008, regularly teaching courses in Commercial Real Estate & Finance and Commercial Leasing.

    Following his graduation from Syracuse University College of Law (cum laude), Darrow moved to Rhode Island to work for CVS/Caremark as a Senior Real Estate Manager. Darrow’s professional experience also includes working as a partner within a highly regarded Providence- and Boston-based law firm and serving as President of Real Estate for a subsidiary of a New York-based hedge fund. Darrow has worked over the years with various public and private groups in connection with analyzing existing and proposed laws and regulations in connection with economic stimulus initiatives, particularly in the fields of real estate development and redevelopment. He is a regular supporter of numerous charitable organizations, including Women & Infants Hospital, The Providence Center, The Boys & Girls Club, The Rhode Island Food Bank, Peace Love Studios, Save the Bay, as well as several other regional and national charitable organizations.

    Darrow will continue his role with DarrowEverett LLP while serving the Mayor and the City of Providence as a Special Adviser. To avoid any conflict of interest while serving as Special Adviser, Darrow will cease representing clients before the City of Providence and its various boards and agencies. His work with the City of Providence will begin immediately.

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