Apex purchase would likely have to be done by eminent domain

Apex purchase would likely have to be done by eminent domain

State lawmakers won't consider PawSox proposal this session

PAWTUCKET – Representatives for the Apex Department Store site targeted for a new baseball stadium are still asking for far more money than city officials and representatives for the Pawtucket Red Sox are willing to spend. Two sources said owner Andrew Gates is still seeking some $20 million for the property, about double the target price from the team and city.

The news comes as state lawmakers indicate that they won't consider a bill to help finance a stadium at Apex during this General Assembly session. They're saying there's not enough time left in the session to fully evaluate the proposal, but they could hold a special session this fall.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien is planning a Wednesday afternoon press conference to urge "statewide leadership to save the PawSox" and help keep the team in Pawtucket.

If the stadium is to move forward, Pawtucket would likely foot the bill for the purchase of the Apex property as part of the proposed financing agreement between the PawSox, the city, and Rhode Island Commerce Corp., and officials are estimating the cost to be in the range of $10 million.

There is now increasing likelihood that the city would need to pursue buying the property through the eminent domain process, where officials would have to make a convincing argument that the property is needed for the public’s good.

The Apex property is valued at about $4.3 million in the city's tax database.

City leaders say they're in the final stages of drafting legislation on financing a new stadium to go to Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island General Assembly. Team officials have confirmed that the costs for the project would be $158 million, with interest, over 30 years of paying back bonds.

Several opposition groups have restarted campaigns against public subsidies for the stadium, reviving a debate from two years ago when the PawSox sought a stadium in Providence.

The Valley Breeze reported in March that the asking price for Apex was too high for PawSox officials. The reported $20 million asking price was said to be for only a portion of the property, which includes the main property where the store is located, and three other properties across the street.

Gates on Monday declined to comment on the suggestion of eminent domain proceedings, saying only that negotiations were ongoing with the city and the PawSox.

Grebien said Monday, prior to the news that state leaders will hold off on considering a stadium proposal, that Pawtucket officials are in ongoing discussions with Gates and the city “remains hopeful that we can reach a negotiated purchase at a fair and reasonable price.”

The property, with its proposed public ballpark, which “would occupy a significant portion of the land would be an impressive, highly visible gateway to Pawtucket, the Blackstone Valley, and all of Rhode Island,” added Grebien. “The proposed project would be a critical public/private investment that would have the added benefit of (spurring) so much additional private investment in downtown Pawtucket and throughout the region, which has been sorely needed for decades.”

Officials are seeking to “reach a fair, negotiated purchase with the owner of the Apex property without the necessity of a taking through eminent domain, but all options will remain on the table in order to ensure that the people of Rhode Island are not denied this important public venue,” said Grebien.

City officials have had a long and often contentious relationship with Gates. Two years ago, the City Council refused to grant a zone change allowing the owner to include the old George’s Games building in his “Riverfront Commons District” until Gates cleaned up the property, which has been the target of frequent complaints from residents.

The right half of the building, where the Rhode Island DMV previously operated, remains empty, while Apex Department Store remains open on the left side of the building. Few cars are ever seen in the lot. Other Apex companies are located on the lower riverfront side of the property.

Gates has continued to make money through the family department store business, but previously told The Breeze that most of his sales are now through online purchases.

The PawSox maintain that the existing McCoy Stadium is not worth renovating or replacing at its existing site, and are seeking a deal to build a new stadium up the road on Pawtucket's riverfront, where they say there's significantly more potential for economic development.