Officials creating master list of vacant businesses

Officials creating master list of vacant businesses

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Local officials, intent on taking their "one-stop shop" for business to the next level, are creating a master list of all vacant business spaces centered along the town's main commercial corridors, Mineral Spring Avenue and Smith Street.

Ed Civito, director of zoning and planning for North Providence, said he and others in his department are in the process of identifying each property. There is no estimate right now on how many there might be, he said.

When the job of finding all vacant spaces is done, said Civito, town employees will perform a preliminary zoning review of each property in commercial village, commercial professional, or commercial general zones to determine the best possible uses for each.

Eventually, said Civito, each property owner with a vacant commercial space will have a list of best possible uses for their specific property, eliminating unnecessary applications and reducing the need for business owners to go through lengthy approval processes.

"We'll establish what could go there and educate the owners of the complexes on ideas for how to market their property," said Civito.

Not only will the master list help property owners in their task of filling up vacant spots, said Civito, but the changes will further smooth the future permitting process when new business owners apply to open at a particular location.

The improved process will go a long way toward removing "surprises" for business owners down the road, said Civito, eliminating any question right from the start on whether their particular business is right for a certain spot.

Letting business owners know exactly what uses are allowed within a building or zone will minimize the cost to companies of having to go before boards to find out if they comply with regulations, said Civito. All-important parking spaces are also part of the study, he said, as the amount and accessibility of parking are just as important to a business's future success as the space it is in.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said he asked Civito a while back to come up with the list of vacant properties so town officials will have a better idea of where to send someone if they inquire about coming to town. The list will always be changing as companies come and go, said Lombardi, making it that much more important that officials stay on top of the situation from the beginning.

Coming from the business sector, said Lombardi, it is important to him to keep improving the process for prospective businesses in town. The mayor said his commitment to new business became obvious when he opened the town's one-stop public safety and inspections offices in a former Chinese restaurant next to the police department back in 2008. The new master list will only enhance what was started back then, he said.

Lombardi said he remains proud of what he accomplished with the "one-stop shop," which he said has helped give North Providence the reputation of being friendly to businesses.

"We're the only town in the state that has a one-stop shop for the permitting process," said Lombardi.

Instead of traveling from one office to another, as they once did, business owners now are able to have all of their zoning, fire, electrical, plumbing and permitting needs taken care of in one building. Town employees can easily communicate with each other to remove obstacles and accelerate the process, noted Lombardi.

"We're trying to do anything we can to help business," he said. "I wouldn't want someone running me around, so we're not going to do it either."

One of the biggest success stories coming out the town's one-stop shop came last month with the approved addition of a TD Bank location across the street from the building, according to Civito. The approvals for the bank would not have happened nearly as quickly, he said, if the streamlined processes weren't in place.

Find the North Providence Planning and Zoning Department online at www.northprovidenceri.gov/planning .