City taking multi-pronged approach to downtown development

City taking multi-pronged approach to downtown development

PAWTUCKET – When Shri Yoga owner Alison Bologna announced in March that she was investing in a property within the Transit-Oriented Development district surrounding a coming new train station, at the corner of Conant and Pine Street, she hinted that it was part of a larger strategic plan with the city.

That broader plan, according to Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle, involves a “multi-pronged approach” that invests heavily into the TOD district with hopes that it will have a “spinoff effect” into the rest of the downtown.

Corresponding efforts to improve bus, bike, scooter and pedestrian transportation is meant to connect what’s happening around the coming train station with other ongoing projects along Main Street and elsewhere, she said, including Leslie Moore’s project at 250 Main St., the planned redevelopment of the former Narragansett Bay Insurance Company at 217 Main St., and the mostly vacant Apex property at 100 Main St., where officials are still pushing redevelopment efforts.

Officials’ efforts encompass infrastructure, financing and zoning, along with a revamped parking garage, in “catalyzing some of the activity in downtown,” she said.

Zoning changes made last fall were meant to encourage more active uses in downtown. The Pawtucket Business Development Corp. is also offering targeted loan options for small businesses. Infrastructure improvements will help more people connect to the coming train station, she said, ensuring that it’s “not separate and apart from the downtown.”

“The hope is that the activity in the TOD will lead to a lot of the transformation in the downtown (and the) Broad Street initiative,” she said.

A federal opportunity zone in the downtown and riverfront area is bearing fruit, she said, and the city is also working on legislative efforts to augment that opportunity zone, which gives developers tax credits and will hopefully allow it to “emerge and compete for outside investment capital.” At least a couple of developers are looking at purchasing properties in the downtown area because of those changes, Boyle said.

Pawtucket’s elected officials are also working on legislation to turn a former “super TIF” (tax increment financing) plan previously proposed for the area around a downtown stadium for the PawSox into a financing tool to be used by other projects. The super TIF would be expanded to new boundaries and used on a broader scale to promote growth in the downtown and riverfront.

In moving to the new mill space, from her former downtown space at the Pawtucket Armory on Exchange Street, Bologna told The Providence Journal she wanted to make a more permanent investment in the city in a section of the city she could see greater economic growth in the near future. She’s planning a $3 million investment including four commercial spaces and eight apartments.