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National Trust for Historic Preservation: Historic Tax Credit Eliminated

“Our tax credits have made the preservation of our older buildings not only a matter of respect for beauty and history, but of economic good sense.” –President Ronald Reagan in 1984

Press Release from National Trust for Historic Preservation:


Today the House Ways and Means Committee released a proposed tax reform bill that eliminates the federal historic tax credit (HTC) as part of a sweeping effort to both pay for tax cuts and simplify the tax code.

While not unexpected, this policy proposal deals a significant blow to historic preservation. The HTC has a four-decade track record of success in saving our nation’s historic buildings, creating over 2.4 million jobs, and actually generating revenue for the U.S. Treasury, returning $1.20 for every taxpayer dollar spent.

President Ronald Reagan praised the HTC as “economic good sense” by significantly leveraging private sector investment. Developers have completed over 42,000 challenging historic rehabilitation projects using the HTC. Without this powerful incentive, historic rehabilitation across the nation will halt, as will significant reinvestment in our communities.

Introduction of the House tax reform bill represents the beginning of a difficult legislative process. We will continue to advocate vigorously in support of this vital preservation tool to ensure a critical redevelopment incentive is preserved in the final tax reform bill—but we cannot do it without you.

Please use our sample message to contact your members of Congress NOW to help save the historic tax credit.

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Barry Schiller: It’s time to re-assess that proposed train station bus hub

Do you remember that in 2014 Rhode Islanders approved a vaguely worded $35 million bus hub transit bond? However, at this point, with that much money at stake, I think our state should re-examine the need for the proposed Providence train station area bus hub.

A news report indicated no Boston area developers were interested in leveraging the voter-approved bond money for a public-private partnership in the train station area. I suspect state leaders support for the bus hub project was predicated on drawing that investment, and so maybe now they are less interested. Recall the hub was a Chafee administration initiative that Raimondo, RIDOT Director Alviti, RIPTA Board Chair Kezirian, etc. inherited so they may not be all that committed to implement it. Further, now that it has apparently been deemed too expensive to build over the railroad tracks, the alternative of taking some of the State House lawn has engendered opposition from historic interests and maybe the Capital Center Commission too. In addition there are concerns the roads in the area are already often congested and adding many more buses can make it worse.

However, downtown interests may still want to eliminate or reduce the buses (and the low income people it transports) in Kennedy Plaza and hope a train station bus hub will be an alternative. They seem to have the ear of the Mayor who never much seemed interested in bus transit. Unions and contractors will also tend to favor spending the money on a new bus hub, for the construction jobs.

Though needs of the homeless and downtown business owners are both important, they are secondary to the interests of taxpayers who approved the money for transportation. Bus and rail passengers have nothing to gain from building a new bus hub at the train station. The relatively few transferring to/from trains already have 5 bus lines (50, 55, 56, 57, and R) to connect them to Kennedy Plaza and the bus network, plus a place to wait indoors get information, access to bathrooms, even coffee, at an intermodal facility called the “train station.” We don’t need another building, or to add un-needed buses to the already congested area.

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WPRI: Bike-share service coming to Providence

Image from Social Bicycles’ blog

City Councilman Bryan Principe, who represents Ward 13, will introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting that would authorize the Elorza administration to enter into a five-year $400,000 contract with Social Bicycles, a well-known company that will oversee the “implementation, management, and operation” of the bike-share service.

[…]

The bikes will be located at 40 stations near the Downtown Transit Connector, which will run from Capital Center through downtown to the Rhode Island Hospital area. Other stations will be placed in Fox Point, College Hill and portions of the West End and Federal Hill, according to the RFP.

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Mayor Elorza vetos City Council Resolution regarding bike lanes

Mayor Elorza speaking at ribbon-cutting of Fountain Street bike lane in November 2016

Last week the Providence City Council passed a Resolution calling for, “full traffic impact and economic impact studies prior to deciding whether to construct new bicycle lanes.”

Bicycle and transportation advocates, along with the Mayor and at least 5 members of the Council hold that these studies would out unnecessary expense in the way of expanding bicycle infrastructure within the city. The Mayor vetoed the Resolution.

From the Mayor:

I vetoed the Providence City Council’s resolution regarding bike lane planning because it sends the wrong message about bicycle and pedestrian safety here in Providence. We support Complete Streets here in our city, meaning that our infrastructure is designed and operated for safe access for all users, of all abilities. We will continue to engage the community in these decisions and we remain committed to working with the Councilmembers to address any concerns they have heard from constituents.

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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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PBN: The state’s 2012 bet on commuter-rail service has yet to pay off. Is it time to privatize?

Wickford Junction Station, image from RIDOT.

“We started a few months ago, doing a deep dive looking into what the MBTA can do, what it can’t do and why,” [RIDOT Director Peter] Alviti said. “Peak periods [are] quite a challenge for them to be able to give us more frequency during rush hours.”

The constriction relates to the design of the MBTA hub at South Station in Boston, according to Devine. It becomes a choke point during rush hours. “Without an expansion in additional capacity and trackage there, it really limits increasing the trains [to Rhode Island], particularly in the peak period,” he said.

Taking over the services themselves, however, would allow RIDOT to contract out the operations to a company that only has to cycle between Wickford Junction and Providence, and which might allow for future expansion.

The article goes on to discuss the need to add housing to the stop at Wickford Junction to provide a built-in client base for the service (true TOD, not a Home Depot and a Walmart) and also the potential for service to Quonset, which is an expanding jobs center.

We’re not going to tear down the $40 million station at Wickford Junction, so how do we make it work?

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Construction starts at Edge College Hill

View from Memorial Blvd. at Washington St., 169 Canal at center.

Press Release from DBVW Architects:


DBVW Architects is working closely with Vision Properties on Edge College Hill, a new mixed-use residential project in downtown Providence at the base of College Hill. Located at 169 Canal Street, this new 15-story high-rise will include 202 micro-loft style apartments and first floor commercial space. Amenities for the residential units include a top floor common room and southwest facing terrace as well as a fitness center and first floor lobby/gathering space.

These modernly furnished apartments will primarily be marketed towards students. Features include over-sized windows, high-end finishes, 9′ 7″ ceilings, fully equipped kitchens and fold-down beds that tuck into contemporary cabinetry when not in use. Residents will be able to choose from views of the Providence skyline, historic College Hill, and the Rhode Island State House.

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Providence City Plan Commission Meeting – August 15, 2017

Providence City Plan Commission Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 – 4:45pm
Joseph Doorley Municipal Building, 1st Floor Meeting Room 444 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

Proposed building at 1292 Westminster Street, 4th item on the Agenda. Rendering by ZDS.

cpc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from July 18, 2017, regular meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

Minor Subdivision

1. Case No. 17-016MI – 13 Cushing Street (Preliminary Plan) – The applicant is proposing to subdivide a lot in the R-2 zone measuring approximately 10,577 SF into two lots measuring 5,102 SF and 5,475 SF. Continued from the July 18, 2017 CPC meeting – for action (AP 10 Lot 232, College Hill)

2. Case No. 17-032MI – 121 Rutherglen Ave (Preliminary Plan) – The applicant is proposing to subdivide a lot measuring approximately 12,791 SF in the R-1 zone-which has an existing two family dwelling-into two lots measuring 6,531 SF and 6,260 SF. The applicant requires zoning relief for intensifying a nonconforming use by reducing the amount of lot area – for action (AP 61 Lot 320, Reservoir)

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RI Future: La Salle very interested in replacing Providence Water Supply Board building with parking lot

Providence Water Supply Board building, image from Google Street View

As the Providence Water Supply Board moves its administration and customer service offices to its new home at an industrial park off Huntington Ave, questions are being asked about the fate of the iconic building that will soon be empty at 552 Academy Avenue. Rumors were flying that La Salle Academy wants to purchase the property and turn it into a parking lot, and those rumors, it turns out, are true.

[…]

“Let me tell what’s not going to be there if La Salle is fortunate enough to acquire the property,” said [Thomas Glavin, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at La Salle Academy]. “There’s not going to be a middle school there. There’s not going to be a hockey rink there. There’s not going to be a swimming pool there. There’s probably not going to be anything there in the short run. One of the things we’re very concerned about is parking…”

Sigh.

The City has not made any decisions about what to do with the building. There would be an RFP process which LaSalle would have to respond to. Then the matter would go before the Historic District Commission.

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Fane Organization Hope Point Tower on 195 Redevelopment District Commission Agenda Today – July 25, 2017

I-195 Redevelopment District Commission – Public Meeting Notice
A regular meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on Tuesday July 25, 2017, beginning at 5:00 P.M., for the following purposes:

Rendering of proposed 45-story tower on Parcel 42 by the Fane Organization

195-roundI. Public Session

  1. Welcoming Remarks by Chairperson Azrack.
  2. Approval of the Minutes of the Commission Meetings Held on June 19, 2017 and July 10, 2017.
  3. Executive Director’s Report.
  4. Presentation on the proposed development on Parcel 42 by Jason Fane of The Fane Organization.
  5. Presentation by Patricia Adell of Real Estate Solutions Group, LLC regarding the proposed development on Parcel 42 by The Fane Organization.
  6. Public Comment on the proposed development on Parcel 42 by The Fane Organization.
  7. Vote to consider the Level 2 application as submitted by The Fane Organization.
  8. Informational presentation by Christopher Wangro of Zaragunda, Inc. regarding District interim use and programming.
  9. Chairperson’s Report/Agenda for next meeting on Monday, August 21, 2017 at 5:00P.M.
  10. Vote to Adjourn.

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Not the apartment for you

If you go to public hearings on new development projects often enough, you’ll hear a familiar refrain—the apartments are too small, there’s no garden, too little parking, etc.—which boils down to: “I wouldn’t want to live there.” Well, guess what, not everyone wants to live where you do.

Some people live alone, some people have big families; some people like small places that are easy to clean, some are cheap, some have lots of furniture; some people like to garden, some people like to come home from work and watch Netflix, some people drive, some people walk, bike, or take the bus. Well, perhaps, this building isn’t built for you.

Healthy neighborhoods need a range of housing types, from family sized apartments and homes, to micro units and hip bachelor lofts and everything in between. The desire to have other people live the way I do, (“I like to garden. Gardening is important to (my) community. This building has no gardens. Therefore it’s bad for our community”) is a suburban desire. It’s the desire for middle-class conformity and normalcy.

When you travel to other healthy cities around the world (or even in the US), you see the vast array of ways that people are happy to live. I hope that you’ve found a place you like to live; I don’t think it’s helpful to kick away the ladder of other people finding places they may like to live. Guess, what, this apartment isn’t for you.

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The impacts of where we park

A few weeks back my wife and I were walking around the corner of our street on the west side when we noticed that if felt different. On both sides of the street the curbs were parked with cars—our neighbors across the street were having a house party. Typically there are few cars parked on our street, with the consequence that the street feels very wide and cars go speeding down it. But with the street densely parked the drive lanes are narrowed; drivers feel more constrained driving down the street causing them to slow down. Sometimes cars even have to stop to give way to a car going the other way, helping slow traffic on an otherwise quiet residential street with many children and pets. There’s even a name for this kind of street, a “give-way street.”

We saw another example of this phenomena during PVD Fest. The Sunday party in Dexter Training Ground meant that hundreds of cars were parking in the usually vacant on-street parking spaces around the park. Usually Dexter Street and Parade Street feature cars accelerating up the wide drives past a park where children play, but again the parked cars slowed traffic by narrowing the road width, and bonus: put a wall of steel between the moving cars and the sidewalk and park.

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R.I. economy needs investment in modern and efficient transportation infrastructure

Train Station at T.F. Green Airport, photo from RIDOT

Last week, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that, from July through the end of the year, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail service will be free for people traveling within the state. The intention of the pilot program is to attract new riders who, in theory, will then realize the convenience of the rail line and continue to utilize it in the future. However, unless you are commuting to and from Boston, commuter rail service in Rhode Island is not very useful. Despite offering three MBTA stations in the state, service proves to be infrequent and unreliable. Lack of coordinated policy in solving transportation problems is a major cause. Large expenditures for highways and extending MBTA service to South County, albeit solving some traffic problems, have failed to eliminate growing traffic congestion throughout the Providence metropolitan area. If some action is not taken, rising immobility may erode the basic economic fiber of the state.

To become more economically independent from Boston and promote more local sustainable development, Rhode Island must develop a stronger public transit system. For example, looking to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor connecting Providence with Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., it is one of the region’s most important transportation arteries. Yet, most Rhode Islanders associate the route only with long-distance commuting, which is an unfortunate association falling far short of its full potential.

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2017 Providence 4th of July Celebration & Fireworks

Image from Department of Arts, Culture, + Tourism by Michael Christofaro

The City of Providence will celebrate with fireworks, food, music, and more at India Point Park on July 4th. Details from the Department of Arts, Culture, + Tourism:


Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and the Providence Tourism Council are pleased to announce the City’s annual Independence Day Celebration will be held at India Point Park on Tuesday, July 4th 2017 beginning at 7PM. The event will feature family fun, a bike parade and valet, live entertainment and a fireworks display. This event is free and open to the public.

“The City’s Independence Day Celebration is a highlight of the summer season in our Creative Capital,” Said Mayor Elorza. “I look forward to joining visitors and residents at India Point Park to celebrate the Fourth of July at this family-friendly, free event and our signature fireworks display.”

Public Safety Plan

The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism works closely with our public safety agencies to ensure each event is a fun and secure experience. Please take note of the items below:

  • Spectators are asked to be aware of their surroundings. If you see a suspicious person, object or vehicle in the park, please report the sighting to (401) 272-3121 or notify nearby law enforcement personnel.
  • Do not store or leave any personal items, backpacks, or packages unattended in the park.
  • Bags may be subject to random search.
  • No fireworks of any kind are allowed in the park.
  • No open flames of any kind are allowed in the park.
  • Per the regulations of the Providence Parks Commission, dogs, skateboards and open flames/grilling will be prohibited in the park.
  • Expect delays when leaving after the fireworks.
  • The public is strongly encouraged to access the park by the India Point Park Walking Bridge located at East and Wickenden Streets.

The City will also be observing the following traffic plan to ensure easy access in and out of India Point Park on July 4:

  • India St., from Newport Ferry landing to the I-195 East off-ramp, will be closed for City of Providence 4th of July activities on Tuesday, July 4 at 8 am through Midnight.
  • Exit 2 (India St./Gano St.) off of I-195 East will be closed for City of Providence 4th of July activities on Tuesday, July 4 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Please follow signed detour.
  • Parking will also be prohibited from 5 a.m. to midnight on Tuesday, July 4.
  • No stopping will be allowed on Route 95 or Route 195. The Rhode Island State Police will be posted on the highway.
  • Passengers on the Providence-Newport ferry should allow additional time for parking. Ferry customers must access the landing area from South Main Street. Check their website for more information about this service.
  • Boats are permitted in the Bay but safety regulations will be strictly enforced, including requiring navigational lights, life jackets, and a 200 yard security zone around the fireworks barge. For more information on boat safety laws, please visit: uscgboating.org.
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ProJo: Former Providence Mayor Paolino seeks $4.25M in tax help for new hotel

Image from ZDS

Former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. is seeking $4.25 million in state tax help to redevelop his historic office building at 30 Kennedy Plaza into a 48-room boutique hotel that he says would attract guests visiting the tenants in his adjacent office tower at 100 Westminster St.

When he bought both buildings and a nearby parking lot in early 2014 for about $60 million, Paolino said he hoped to turn the smaller of the buildings, built in the mid 1800s, into a hotel.

[…]

Paolino said challenges remain with his hotel plans. He has been one of the loudest critics of existing conditions at Kennedy Plaza, where many of the state’s bus routes converge. He said the city’s recent imposition of a no-smoking policy in Kennedy Plaza will help the area become more of a park and less a place where people loiter. But more must be done — the reason, Paolino said, that he has become chairman of the Downtown Improvement District.

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Free in-state train service, July 3rd through the end of the year

Wickford Junction Station. Photo from RIDOT’s Facebook Page

Press Release from RIDOT:


RIDOT Offering Free In-State Commuter Rail Trips Between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green And Providence Stations

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is encouraging Rhode Islanders to leave their cars at home for the daily trip to work, catching a flight, or a visit to the capital city by making in-state travel free on trains between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green and Providence stations.

RIDOT is making commuter rail service free for a limited time, beginning on July 3 and running through the end of the year. The promotion will raise awareness of this convenient transit service, encouraging more people to use the train instead of the busy Route 4 highway corridor and the subsequent challenges of driving into and parking in Providence.

“Rhode Island ranks on the bottom when it comes to the percentage of travelers who use transit as opposed to cars, yet we have the infrastructure and train service to make it easy for people to get around our state without a car,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “Making it free for a period of time will make more people aware of this great service and provide them an opportunity try it and use it on a regular basis.”

Parking at Wickford Junction Station is free year-round. The facility – located minutes from Exit 5 on Route 4 in North Kingstown – includes covered garage parking, restrooms, a climate-controlled indoor waiting area, electric car charging stations and vending machines.

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PawSox Propose Private-Public Funded $83 Million Ballpark at Apex Site

Rendering of The Ballpark at Slater Mill from the PawSox

The Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday released plans to build an $83 million ballpark at the Apex site along Route 95 in Pawtucket. The plan envisions funding for the ballpark coming from the team, the State, and the City of Pawtucket.

The Pawtucket Red Sox and the City of Pawtucket, with substantial advice and direction from the leaders of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, have reached agreement on a proposal that would keep the team in Pawtucket until at least 2050 with a 30-year lease extension if a plan for a ballpark that is designed to revitalize downtown and the riverfront is approved by the Governor and the State Legislature. The plan is today being presented to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate for further review and consideration.

The PawSox would pay $45 million, the largest private investment in the history of Pawtucket, according to city officials. The ballpark is estimated to cost $73 million; thus, the club would pay 61.6% of ballpark construction costs. In addition, the minority investment by the State of Rhode Island would be paid back by revenues that are generated by the ballpark and the ballclub, enabling the project to proceed with no new taxes or increases in tax rates. The project will effectively pay for itself from the revenue that it generates. Taxpayers also will be protected by the PawSox, who will take on all ballpark construction cost overruns.

A “Ballpark at Slater Mill” will be part of a larger downtown re-development project. Together, the ballpark and land are expected to cost $83 million; thus, the PawSox would pay about 54% of the entire ballpark and land cost. Even so, the public would own the ballpark and the land, continuing the city’s 75-year practice of providing a public facility. In turn, the PawSox would then pay the highest rent in the International League, increasing their rent in 2020 to $1 million, with annual increases, and devote $500,000 annually from naming rights to help finance the ballpark.

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