At the start of 2012, Providence’s colleges and universities were at loggerheads with Mayor Angel Taveras over his demand for a $7 million per-year increase in their combined payments to the city.
City-university relations hit a low point last January after a tentative agreement between Brown University and the city fell through and sparked a series of combative exchanges between Taveras and then-Brown President Ruth Simmons. But before the year was out, all seven major nonprofits, including Brown, had had agreed with the city on a combined $6.25 million in new annual payments in lieu of taxes.
Threats the state would strip the nonprofits of their property-tax exemption may have given the city some leverage, but also important was the decision to offer the schools something they really wanted in exchange for their money: public streets.
In a February agreement that became the model for subsequent deals with the four other schools, Johnson & Wales University agreed to add $670,000 to its annual payment in exchange for control of three streets serving its Harborside campus (and the land downtown where one “paper” street exists on city plans).
Four months later, Brown received ownership of four blocks of streets that cross through its campus in College Hill in exchange for an additional $3.9 million annually, plus exclusive rights to 250 on-street parking spaces.
The deal differed from the earlier Brown agreement that fell through by centering on streets and parking instead of sales of former Interstate 195 land.
While Johnson & Wales’ deal also included I-195 land considerations, they were setting a price for parcels already reserved for the university in state law.
Last month, Providence College received sections of three streets either adjacent to or crossing its Elmhurst campus in exchange for an average annual payment increase of $384,000.
Steven Maurano, assistant vice president for public affairs at Providence College, said acquiring the streets in the deal with the city had not been a priority for the college until the other schools started getting streets.