In his first year in office, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras just wanted to survive the “category 5 fiscal hurricane” brought about by the recession and years of city policy decisions.
Year two was dominated by municipal pensions.
Now three years after taking office and weighing a run for governor, Taveras has a plan to jump-start economic growth in the city and bring development to numerous tracts of underutilized land.
The plan, released as a prelude to his fiscal 2014 budget proposal this month, would freeze the city’s sky-high commercial property tax rates for seven years and introduce incentives aimed at replacing parking lots with buildings.
“We have to do more to accelerate the pace of economic growth,” Taveras told business leaders at the Providence Foundation gathering where his plan was released March 27. “The goal that I have is to improve our business climate, improve our infrastructure and invest in human capital in our city.”
Perhaps predictably, Taveras’ attention on growth and development has found strong support in the business community.
William F. Hatfield, Rhode Island president for Bank of America, called Taveras’ economic-development priorities “phenomenal” and a “great plan” that will “really create a very strong and sustainable future” for the city.
Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White, who served on Taveras’ transition committee, said she was happy now to see the return of many ideas suggested in that process but set aside because of budget crises.
“The freeze in tax rates is very important when Providence is compared to other cities,” said White, who particularly liked Taveras’ call for a combination of “innovation and grit” to propel the economy.
In addition to seeking the commercial property tax freeze, which will need the support of the City Council, Taveras’ plan includes four other “immediate action” priorities based on objectives developers and urban-growth advocates have been working on for years.
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