‘We view the river as the most underdeveloped part of the city.’
A LOT OF WORK: A rendering commissioned by The Pawtucket Foundation in 2008 illustrates the development potential of an area that now includes a large surface parking lot owned by Pawtucket and the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.
COURTESY THE PAWTUCKET FOUNDATION/DURKEE BROWN VIVEIROS AND WERENFELS ARCHITECTS
With so much hype being focused on real estate in Providence’s developing Knowledge District and next to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Pawtucket’s downtown riverfront is sometimes in danger of being overlooked.
But the vision city and business leaders have for development on the Blackstone and Seekonk river waterfront to drive an urban revival stretching through downtown into Central Falls could rival those plans in other parts of the state.
With up to $125 million in state and federal infrastructure improvements committed to the area and a Downtown Development Plan, city and business leaders are now taking steps to nurture riverfront projects to life and make sure Pawtucket appears on developers’ radar.
“We want to create an environment where we have shovel-ready projects,” said Pawtucket Planning Director Michael P. Davolio. “We’re pulling together the information a developer would need before they could make a decision about building. We want to take the risk out of things for developers.”
In the last few months, the city has approved zoning changes that removed parking requirements for buildings in the downtown area, making new mixed-use projects more feasible and discouraging the clearing of lots for surface parking.
The changes also allow some uses by right instead of requiring a special permit, which can add two or three months additional lead time to a project and make mixed use difficult.
Joining the city, businesses and other stakeholders, The Pawtucket Foundation is now raising money to hire consultants to study the area, recommend what kind of buildings would work best on each parcel and come up with a marketing strategy.
“We view the river as the most underdeveloped part of the city,” said foundation Executive Director Thomas Mann Jr. “The primary land-owners have agreed to work together for a master-development vision for the riverfront. We have all the pieces and need to tie it all together.”