Six years before it was part of a $16.8 million sale to an international metal recycler, the Promet Marine Services pier on Allens Avenue was nearly sold to the city of Providence for a more modest price of just over $1 million.
But that deal was struck down by the R.I. Supreme Court in a decision that supporters of waterfront development point to with dismay as a key reversal that helped stymie proposals to rezone the area and open it up for nonindustrial uses.
“The city got screwed,” said Providence Ward 10 City Councilor Luis Aponte, the most vocal advocate for waterfront rezoning on the council. “Given the size of the parcel and where it is located, it may have cast a whole different path for the types of activities that could have occurred down there. It could have been a very different terrain than what is there today.”
Not everyone thought or thinks city ownership of the old state pier would have been a good thing.
The former owners of Promet, David and Joel Cohen, have fought to keep the working waterfront industrial for years and after selling their business to Sims Metal Management this fall point out that the property is now producing tax revenue and high-paying, blue-collar jobs.
Mayor Angel Taveras, who was not in office during the aborted city purchase, supported Sims’ purchase of the Promet property.
But at the very least the cash-strapped city lost out on a very valuable piece of land that it could have sold down the line at a handsome profit.
Now the home of Sims Metal Management’s primary New England scrap-metal export terminal, as well as the Promet Marine Services ship-repair yard, the pier at 242 Allens Ave. a decade ago was owned by the state, which had maintained it since condemning the property in 1911.
In 2004, the state decided to sell the pier, which Promet had been leasing for years with a contract that guaranteed it could remain as a tenant through 2021.
As it turned out, Promet owners David and Joel Cohen, under the corporate name Tidewater Realty, won the bidding for the state pier with an offer of just over $1 million, their long-term lease being a likely factor in the low price.