Brodie envisions ‘mini city’ rising in train station district

Brodie envisions ‘mini city’ rising in train station district

Aerial renderings of the Conant Thread district in Pawtucket and Central Falls.

PAWTUCKET – Companies interested in the city’s planned 150-acre transit hub range from residential and corporate developers to start-up manufacturers and light industrial companies.

Jan Brodie, executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation, said the Conant Thread district will be similar to a “mini city,” featuring a planned Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station, between Conant Street and Main Street. As with her previous work with the I-195 Commission, people are asking what the exact vision is for the area on the Pawtucket and Central Falls line, but she said that evolution is hard to predict this early.

Neither Brodie nor anyone else is revealing the companies interested in developing properties within the district, as no agreements have been signed yet.

Just as other cities evolve, this district will morph into its own identity at some point, five months to 25 years from now, said Brodie. Right now, the interest runs “the full gamut” of uses, including corporate campus, office, retail, light industrial, food and beverage, and start-up entrepreneurs who are growing out of existing spaces, she said.

Zoning in this Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) district is “very flexible,” meant to encourage all types of use opportunities in an area that will be a hub for alternative forms of transportation and sustainable infrastructure, she added.

The TOD district surrounding the planned train station, which is expected to be built in the next two years, will be be friendly to walkers and cyclists, say officials.

Cities generally are made up of about 55 percent commercial space and 45 percent residential space, said Brodie. Conant Thread will likely have a similar makeup, containing many mixed-use structures.

The Guild brewery at 461 Main St., with owners who are bold and took risks to capture the beer market, is proving to be a foundational draw within the TOD district for numerous developers, said Brodie. The beer and food campus is set up to draw the types of people who are attractive to developers, particularly professionals and energetic young people who are interested in quality of life.

“They’ll encourage a kind of population that is likely to be a great fit,” she said.

A proposed Pawtucket Red Sox baseball stadium up the road at the Apex Department Store site would only enhance the area, she said.

Officials are having ongoing conversations with major stakeholders who own property in the district, said Brodie, to see who is interested in developing or renovating, who is looking to sell, and who is trying to fill excess space.

Some property owners are already working on projects in the district, including the owners of the Union Wadding Lofts and New England Paper Tube Co.

A community meeting held at The Guild last month was designed to make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on and to get input from people who are already living and working in the area, said Brodie. Laying out the vision for the district let everyone know “very clearly that it’s real,” she said, and that the train station and surrounding development will become a reality.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa previously formed the Joint Planning Commission to facilitate consistency on both sides of the city line within the Conant Thread district, streamlining regulations for developers, including a special zoning ordinance, administrative tax stabilization agreements, flexible financing plans and reduced parking requirements.

Brodie said there is plenty of property for sale within the Conant Thread district. Property owners there are not indicating that they’re planning to hold onto their assets to keep them from being part of the economic development initiative, she said.

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