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What the Amazon Headquarters Beauty Contest can teach us about Economic Development

This article has been cross-posted from Strong RI with permission.

The economic development world is all abuzz with last week’s news that Amazon is courting cities for a second headquarters that will match their current, in Seattle, with 50,000 employees and over 8 million square feet of office space. To no one’s surprise, the State of Rhode Island has declared its intention to submit a proposal to lure Amazon’s new offices and tens of thousands of highly paid workers.

Let’s first acknowledge that Rhode Island and Providence aren’t going to win this competition. A quick read-through of the Amazon RFP and a bit of reflection on the recent move of GE to Boston and Amazon’s current headquarters in urban Seattle and it’s clear that the Providence metro area doesn’t have the scale, employment base, public transportation system or any number of other requirements of the proposal. The State and City will no doubt offer a generous package of incentives. But so will dozens of other cities—cities that are larger, with faster growing populations of young college graduates, rapidly improving transit systems, superior bike infrastructure, and urban placemaking projects galore.

But this post isn’t about being negative. I get that the state has to respond to something like this, so I’m not going to dwell on whether that’s a good use of resources. I’m more interested in what this Amazon mega-RFP can teach us about what we need to be doing as a city and state if we want to grow our economy in the 21st century.

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News & Notes – PawSox Edition

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PawSox dugout at McCoy Stadium. Photo (cc) Eric Kilby

WPRI: Lucchino responds to skepticism over proposed Providence ballpark

Lucchino, one of the team’s new owners, said the project is a clear economic engine for the local economy, and not just through baseball.

“We have to build a ballpark that has multiple uses, that can attract football and could attract concerts, that can have some art events at the thing,” he said. “Make it an major civic center for Providence.”

[…]

Lucchino believes the new park will not only boost the economy, but also revitalize downtown Providence. He hopes to bring a million people to the capital city by generating small businesses and jobs.


PBN: Pawsox greeted by skeptical I-195 commission and audience

Owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox presented a detailed plan for moving the AAA team to downtown Providence Monday, earning a skeptical if not critical reception from the commission that controls the site the team wants for its new ballpark.

In questions posed during the meeting of the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission, commissioners questioned both the public cost and the tax benefits of the proposed development, and whether the state could find a more effective use for the site to attract highly desirable high-tech or life sciences development to the I-195 lands.

The question of other uses seems odd, so far as I know we still haven’t found a way out of the federal requirement for park land at this location.


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News & Notes

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Image from Cyclehoop

Fast Company: These Recycled Plastic Dividers Can Create A Bike Lane In A Second

Painted bike lanes are safer for cyclists than riding in the middle of the road, but bike lanes that are separated with a curb are even better. For example, one study found that cyclists in separated lanes had 80% fewer accidents than those in regular bike lanes. But it’s often tricky to convince city governments to take the extra, more concrete step of separation. One product from a U.K. design firm aims to help.

The “Armadillo” is a low-slung recycled plastic bump that can be installed along the edge of a bike lane. Set at an angle, the bumps allow enough space for bikes to ride back out into the street if they need to, something that isn’t as easy with a full concrete curb. But it still keeps cars out.


Mashable: London to Test ‘Smart’ Crosswalks

The system, called Pedestrian Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT) uses cameras to figure out how many people are waiting to cross the street and adjusts traffic signals accordingly. So if there is a large crowd waiting, for example, the signal to walk will last longer, giving the crowd more time to cross the street.

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2014 State of the City Address

Mayor Angel Taveras delivered his final State of the City Address last night at City Hall:


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Image from Angel Taveras Twitter feed

Working and Investing in Providence

Mayor Angel Taveras – 2014 State of the City Address
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

(as prepared for delivery)

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

In April, I had the pleasure to be present for the Omni Group’s purchase of the C.J. Fox factory. Anyone who drives on Route 95 South through our city knows the Omni Group has been hard at work renovating the complex at the entrance to historic Federal Hill.

The Omni Group is a homegrown company, headquartered in Providence. Like most businesses, they went through some tough times beginning in 2008. Financing their project became a major challenge when Wall Street imploded and the economy went into a tailspin.

But the Omni Group made it through the hard times, and now they are moving forward and investing $5 million to convert the old factory complex into office space. Bill DiStefano, Omni’s President and CEO, told me they decided to expand their business again because they believe Providence is heading in the right direction.

I tell you this story because it speaks to the overall state of our city. The state of our city is improving.

We’ve been through the hard times of the Great Recession. But we never lost hope. And we never stopped believing that better days were ahead. We are working hard and making investments that will propel Providence into a future of greater economic strength and prosperity.

I want to talk to you tonight about all we’ve done to move Providence forward in the past year. And then I want to talk to you about what we will do in the coming months.

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