THE RIGHT TOOLS: A rendering of a proposed pedestrian walkway between two office buildings on Clifford Street in The Link “developer’s toolkit,” released by the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission this month.
Even before the relocation of Interstate 195 opened up 19 acres of land for development in downtown Providence, the city’s core already featured numerous underutilized properties waiting for the right building project.
So will the former highway land, now being marketed nationally by brokers Jones Lang LaSalle as The Link, attract private-sector investors previously uninterested in Providence?
Like the Jewelry District when the highway ran through it, the real estate world appears split on the question.
“I think you are going to find demand from a variety of sources for the big, rectangular-shaped parcels where you can build something large,” said Kenneth Hecht, principal of Hecht Development in Gloucester, Mass., and owner of 95 Chestnut St., a factory-office conversion abutting The Link. “There are some pretty attractive parcels and others, because of where the highway went, have some weird shapes that may need to be glued on to another parcel.”
Hecht said he sees the scarcity of space in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, Mass., eventually encouraging entrepreneurs to look at The Link as a less expensive Ivy League alternative.
Richard Baccari II, vice president of development at Providence-based Churchill & Banks, which has expressed interest in land from The Link on the city’s East Side, predicts more modest demand, at least in the early days.
“I think it will be slow initially,” Baccari said. “The overall economy is going to have to improve to get national developers interested in Providence.”
As reflected in the choice of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle as broker, the I-195 commission has emphasized attracting national players, particularly potential corporate tenants, to The Link.
“[The Link] is going to need both local and national,” Baccari said. “There is no better champion than those here already, and I think the local developers are probably going to be the first getting progress started. It is going to be hard to get an outside developer to come in and pioneer until they see something happening.”
Neither Baccari nor Hecht said they were ready to discuss any specific plans for a Link bid.