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City of Providence Seeks Public Comment on Sustainabilty Plan

providence-green

Over the past year, the City of Providence has been working on its Sustainability Plan. The City has released a draft of that plan and is seeking comment from the public. From the City:


From Mayor Taveras: Draft Sustainable Providence Plan Released for Public Comment

I am pleased to release for public comment a draft of the city’s first-ever sustainability action plan, Sustainable Providence.

In 2013, I released sustainability goals to move Providence forward in six key areas: waste, food, transportation, water, energy, and land use & development. Since then, more than 100 community leaders have worked with my staff to develop and provide feedback on this draft plan to achieve our goals.

Implementing this plan will help build a resilient and sustainable future for Providence as we protect our environment, rebuild our economy and strengthen our community. Thank you for working together with us to create a cleaner, greener city.

Please submit your comments by Friday, August 22, 2014 to Sheila Dormody, Director of Sustainability, sdormody@providenceri.com

Full disclosure: I participated on the Transportation Subcommittee
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News & Notes

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Photo (cc) Cristina Valencia

The Washington Post: Actually, cyclists make city streets safer

In the hysteria that predated the launch of New York’s bike-sharing system last year, many critics cried that the bikes would make the city’s streets less safe. All those cyclists wouldn’t be wearing helmets! They’d have no insurance! Accidents would skyrocket, and with them lawsuits against the city. Fatalities would triple!

The system’s safety record quickly turned out to be less sensational. But this was as bike advocates expected. Biking — as with walking — offers a prime example of the power of crowds. As more people bike and walk, cycling and pedestrian fatalities actually decline. That’s because the more people bike and walk, the more drivers become attuned to their presence (either on sidewalks or road shoulders), and the more cities are likely to invest in the kind of infrastructure explicitly meant to protect them (all of which further encourages more cyclists and pedestrians).


The Boston Globe: Boston’s parking solution is not more parking

Northeastern University professor Stephanie Pollack has studied gentrification around transit stops across the country, and she’s found that one of the biggest mistakes municipalities make is requiring too much parking. Pollack’s data show that, given the choice, residents will self-select: Heavy drivers choose to live in homes that provide parking, and residents who don’t own cars will choose transit-oriented, low-parking homes. This is especially true for renters. So the answer to an urban parking crunch isn’t adding supply. It’s recognizing that parking demand isn’t monolithic. Urban parking is a choice, and if Boston really does have too many cars already, the answer isn’t to build room for more.

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WPRI: Family Dollar to cut jobs, close 370 stores

Family Dollar said Thursday that will cut jobs and close about 370 underperforming stores as it tries to reverse sagging sales and earnings. The discount store operator will also permanently lower prices on about 1,000 basic items.

Family Dollar reported that net income dropped to $90.9 million, or 80 cents per share, from $140.1 million, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell to $2.72 billion from $2.89 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of 90 cents per share on revenue of $2.77 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year dropped 3.8 percent, worse than the 2.8 percent drop it had in the fourth quarter.

However, Family Dollar representatives told the City Plan Commission in January that they had a proven business model that mandated streetfront parking relative to their proposed store in Olneyville.

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The Herald News: Flanagan says Foxwoods has secured option for 30 acres in South End of Fall River; source says location is New Harbour Mall

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Image from Google Streetview

On Jan. 28, Foxwoods Casino CEO Scott Butera unveiled plans to develop a $750 million resort casino in Fall River that would include a 140,000-square-foot gambling floor, approximately 20 restaurants, a 350-room hotel, a “name-brand” shopping mall, an entertainment arena and a convention center and spa.

Officials said the project would reportedly create between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue.

Some of those jobs will likely go to Rhode Islanders, the reported site sits right on the state line along Route 24, however that revenue will not be coming to Rhode Island. When exactly is the R.I. General Assembly going to come up with a plan to ween us of our dependence on gambling revenue?

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City launches storefront improvement grant program

olneyville-storefronts

From the City:


Mayor Taveras Launches Storefront Improvement Program to Revitalize Building Facades, Support Small Businesses

Program is a priority in Mayor’s economic development action plan, Putting Providence Back to Work

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras, joined by local business owners and business leaders, announced the launch of a new storefront improvement program this morning. The program will support the revitalization of building facades and small businesses across Providence. The initiative is one of the steps identified in Mayor Taveras’ 20-point economic development plan, Putting Providence Back to Work.

“Providence is known for its diverse, historic neighborhoods, which are anchored by small businesses,” said Mayor Taveras. “The storefront improvement program is designed to attract customers to existing businesses, revitalize local business districts, and enhance the beauty and safety of Providence’s neighborhoods.”

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WPRI: The Providence economy may need some more apartments

Providence has low residential vacancy, and high unemployment. People want to live here, but developers have a very difficult time building financially feasible projects.

If people want to live in Providence, that’s a good sign for the Rhode Island economy. More residents means more customers, which means more businesses, which means more jobs, which means even more residents – a virtuous circle that drives economic growth. But they’re not going to come here without a place to live.

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PBN: Downtown vision tied to ‘Superman’?

Central to the argument for saving Providence’s Superman Building with public investment is a vision of the downtown economy driven by residents as much as office workers.

It’s a vision that’s emerged over the last two decades of downtown revitalization and would take a major leap forward if Rhode Island’s tallest building was filled with 280 apartments in the heart of the Financial District.

The new residents and their neighbors in other buildings would draw different services, such as a supermarket or expanded mass transit, than offices would.

The two recent studies of potential uses for the Superman Building at 111 Westminster St. outline the demographic and market shifts that have local developers rushing away from office construction toward rental housing.

Full disclosure, I work for Cornish Associates.
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Where Would Jesus Park?

WPRI: Store’s opening squashed by judge

Federal Hill and West Side friends and neighbors rallied on Sunday morning in support of Cluck!, an urban farm supply store that is trying to open at the site of a former gas station on Broadway.

The business was approved by Zoning to open but was challenged in court on a technicality and lost, forcing owner Drake Patten to begin the Zoning process from scratch. Read Drake’s commentary on what has happened.

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Developing: Mayor’s Economic Report

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Mayor Taveras unveiling his economic development plan this morning. Photo from the Mayor’s Facebook page

Mayor Taveras is unveiling his Economic Development Reportpdf.

Pledging Action, Mayor Taveras Outlines Plan to Grow Providence’s Economy

‘Putting Providence Back to Work’ report presents roadmap to improve the business climate, infrastructure and human capital in Rhode Island’s Capital City

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras today announced a 20-step economic development action plan to put Providence residents back to work and jumpstart the economy of Rhode Island’s Capital City.

The Mayor said that Providence’s economy must be built on the success of a broad range of industries and sectors, and pledged swift action to improve Providence’s business climate, infrastructure and human capital.

“When we work together, we can compete head to head with any city or state in this country,” said Mayor Taveras. “Nothing will change minds about Providence as much as continuing our track record of success.”
The Mayor outlined five immediate steps his administration will pursue to support and grow Providence’s economy:

  1. Freeze the commercial tax rate – The Taveras administration will work with the Providence City Council to enact a seven-year commercial real estate tax freeze that guarantees consistency and stability for developers in Rhode Island and beyond.


    “Freezing our commercial property tax rate will send a message that Providence is serious about attracting new business. We look forward to the day when economic growth in our City enables us to actually lower Providence’s commercial rate,” Mayor Taveras said.
  2. Fix the City’s Permitting Process – Contained in the FY14 budget that Mayor Taveras will present to the City Council next month are two positions to staff a new unit in the Department of Inspections and Standards focused solely on reviewing and approving small-permit applications of under $100,000. These small projects account for 75 percent of all permit applications in the City.


    Additionally, this summer the City will move its permit application process online. For the first time, developers will only need to log onto the City’s website to apply for a permit and get status updates on their applications.
  3. Remove Barriers to Redevelopment – The City will conduct an inventory of all major properties in need of redevelopment. For properties that are not defined as historic landmarks, the City will put on a fast-track for approval all projects to replace existing structures with new construction.

    “We recognize that the City has an important role to play in facilitating new development. It is time to get cranes in the air and put people to work rebuilding our city,” Mayor Taveras said.
  4. Develop Surface Lots Citywide – To stimulate real estate development and ease the crunch on parking downtown, the Taveras administration will work with the City Council to provide tax stabilizations to developers who commit to new development on existing surface lots. New construction on an existing lot will be taxed based on the property’s current assessed value. This program will create jobs, incentivize new, mixed-use developments, and spur new investment on Providence’s major commercial corridors.
  5. Reinvent Kennedy Plaza – The City will work with the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, RIPTA and other public and private partners to reconfigure and reduce the number of buses in the Plaza and transform it into a pedestrian destination.

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Providence 2013 State of the City Address


Mayor Angel Taveras

2013 State of the City Address

Providence Is Recovering

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 • (as prepared for delivery)

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor's Office.

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor’s Office.

Governor, Mr. President, honorable members of the Providence City Council, distinguished guests, and my fellow residents of our great Capital City –

One year ago I stood before you in this Chamber with an urgent message for our City and the entire State of Rhode Island. Providence was in peril. Despite many difficult decisions and painful sacrifices made to pull Providence back from the brink, we were still $22 million short of closing a $110 million structural deficit.

Crucial steps necessary to navigate our City safely through our Category 5 fiscal hurricane had not yet come to pass. We still needed to reform our unsustainable pensions. And we needed Providence’s large, tax-exempt institutions to contribute more.

As I stood before you on February 13, 2012, Providence was running out of cash, and running out of time. In the months that followed, there were some who said Providence could not avoid filing for bankruptcy.

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Today it is my privilege to deliver a much more hopeful report on the State of our City: Providence is recovering.

Through collaborative efforts and shared sacrifice, we have all but eliminated our City’s $110 million structural deficit, and we expect to end this year with a balanced budget. Working together, we have accomplished what few believed possible.

We were determined to address the root causes of Providence’s fiscal emergency and prepared to act unilaterally if necessary. And we knew our City would never achieve a lasting recovery without addressing our unsustainable and spiraling pension costs.

In April, following months of actuarial analysis and public testimony, this City Council unanimously approved a pension reform ordinance that put Providence’s pension system on a sustainable path.

We recognized that passing the ordinance would likely lead to a high-stakes lawsuit with no real winners – because a decision in favor of the status quo would push our City over the brink. However, faced with the challenge of negotiating pension changes with more than 2,000 retirees who were not represented by a single entity, we saw no alternative.

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The Huffington Post: A. Taveras – What the Fiscal Cliff Could Mean for My City

The fiscal cliff would have profound and draconian consequences for the City of Providence. If we go over the cliff, federal support for 21st Century Community Learning Centers will be cut by 20 percent which could force Providence to close up to four after-school programs that serve our highest-poverty neighborhoods. More than 100 young children could be denied access to Head Start — an early education program that helped me and so many other poor, young children start school ready to learn. More than 150 teachers could be locked out of high-quality professional development, putting our students at a disadvantage.

Beyond our schools, the fiscal cliff would cut energy assistance, elderly and handicapped transportation services, employment training and other vital services the newly reorganized Community Action Partnership of Providence provides.

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Letter to the campus from P.C.’s President regarding their PILOT agreement

This letter was sent to the Providence College campus by college president Rev. Brian J. Shanley regarding the college’s agreement with the City to acquire public streets in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes:

A Message to the Providence College Community:

Providence College is, and always has been, mindful of the significant role that the city of Providence plays in the decision our students make to attend this institution. Providence is a vibrant city with rich history, great restaurants, and myriad tourist and cultural attractions. It is both an alluring and attractive setting for our students and their families. As the leaders of all of Providence’s higher education and major healthcare institutions have noted on multiple occasions, a financially sound city of Providence is critical for the continued prosperity of each of our organizations going forward. With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that the College has reached an agreement with the City that will benefit both parties. The College has agreed to pay the City $3.84 million over a 10-year period to purchase portions of three City streets: Huxley Ave., which runs through the eastern end of the College campus, and both Wardlaw Ave. and Cumberland St. which are part of the northwest border of the campus across from Alumni Hall. (Specifically, the College will purchase Huxley Ave. from Eaton St. to Ventura St., Wardlaw Ave. from Lucille St. to Cumberland St., and Cumberland St. from Wardlaw Ave. to the property line at 30 Cumberland St.)

The College proposed the purchase of these streets in response to the City’s request for additional payments in lieu of taxes. As you may know, the City reached similar agreements of mutual benefit with Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University earlier this year. Mindful of the City’s willingness to structure these agreements on a quid pro quo basis, and knowing that they were hopeful of striking some type of arrangement with all of the major non-profit institutions in Providence, the College felt this was the appropriate time to seek the purchase of these streets.

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Link

PBN: R.I. Foundation holding ‘Make It Happen RI’

The Rhode Island Foundation will host “Make It Happen RI” on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8. The event is designed to identify specific plans, along with the path to implement them, that in the end will help to create economic activity in the state that supplements what the private sector is doing currently.

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Providence Community Libraries to close September 10-15 to address budget shortfall

Providence Community Library Olneyville

Providence Community Library System to Close September 10 Through 15 Due to Cut in City Funding

Sacrifice by PCL Staff Minimizes Extenet of Closures

The Providence Community Library system will close Monday, September 10 through Saturday, September 15 due to a cut of $205,000 in funding from the City of Providence. Regular library operations will resume Monday, September 17.

To address the bulk of this devastating cut in City funding, the employees of Providence Community Library (90% of whom are members of United Service and Allied Workers of RI) have agreed to forego the 401(k) contribution made by the Library during the current fiscal year. PCL and its employees hope that this great financial sacrifice by all of PCL’s employees, together with the closing of the libraries for one week, will be sufficient to address this budget shortfall.

PCL’s employees have agreed to forego this year’s contributions to their only pension plan in the hope that this sacrifice will allow PCL to continue providing full library services at all nine of its libraries and with the expectation that the City of Providence will show its support for continuing library services in the City’s neighborhoods by committing to increased funding for the libraries from this point forward.

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Link

RISD Reaches Agreement with City to More Than Double Annual Contribution

Mayor Angel Taveras and Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda announced today that RISD will more than double its annual payments to the City of Providence. RISD will contribute $2.75 million over 11 years, in addition to payments the prestigious arts school is already making under the terms of a separate 2003 memorandum of understanding, which is not affected by the new agreement. To date, the Taveras Administration has secured more than $44 million in additional contributions from six of the City’s largest educational and health-related tax-exempt institutions.

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