Pawtucket Foundation praises Dexter Street project

Pawtucket Foundation praises Dexter Street project

PAWTUCKET – Pawtucket Foundation Executive Director Jan Brodie, in a letter to the editor this week, is praising the recently approved master plan for a major mixed-use development at 71 Dexter St., near Walgreens and the Lynch Arena.

The Peyser Real Estate Group’s seven-story residential and commercial project is the first approved for the Conant Thread District in the area of a new commuter rail station under the new Joint Planning Commission, a Pawtucket and Central Falls review board, Brodie noted.

“The Peyser Real Estate Group’s project represents so much of the economic development the two cities have been hoping for with the advent of the commuter rail stop, including jobs, new residents, increased tax revenue and the transformation of a highly visible, long vacant property,” said Brodie, who sits on the commission.

Even better, said Brodie, the Peyser Group is respected for its investments in projects within the context of the community to which they will belong, “and whose projects look beyond their property line in a true public-private partnership.”

“Conant Thread is a district within an urban fabric. It is not any one project, and its geographic outline is permeable,” she said. “Its vision reflects the city and the northeast region it sits in, as a mixture of uses, of incomes, of ages, of day and night activity, of people – walking, biking, taking the train or bus to work and to entertainment.”

She called this first project of the Joint Planning Commission “a win for Conant Thread,” benefitting existing residents and newcomers alike.

According to meeting minutes from the Planning Commission’s approval on Oct. 22, the Peyser Group proposal calls for demolition of an existing cold storage warehouse structure and construction of a new mixed-use commercial and residential structure with structured parking. The designs presented were conceptual in nature, as this project is still early in the process.

Leland Peyser, of the Peyser Group, presented the vision for the development, saying he has worked in historically underinvested communities such as Newark, New Jersey, and is looking at the area around the commuter rail station at the Pawtucket/Central Falls line for potential development.

Peyser said he has built hotels, supermarkets, apartment buildings and mixed-use developments in the past and is looking at building a retail plaza on the ground floor with 110-150 apartment units above.

The development would include approximately 175,000 square feet of space, with roughly 170 parking spaces. It would include amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops, other retail and a rooftop garden.

Commission member Leslie Moore, who is also the downtown Pawtucket developer behind the Still on Main indoor mini mall, noted that the rents will be higher at this building than the surrounding area, raising concerns that it’s not a mixed-income project.

Peyser responded that the project does not include affordable housing components, but the developers are looking at mixed-income projects in the future and are open to including local businesses in the new development, particularly those of cultural interest and niche businesses to appeal to the local population.

Members generally offered support for the project, which still has a number of approvals to receive. They and city planners noted the project’s consistency with local goals for the area and the city as a whole. Senior Planner Jay Rosa said it accomplishes the comprehensive plan goals of increasing residential density, encouraging infill development reflecting the character of the area, and making Pawtucket a high-performance local economy with a diversity of employment opportunities, among others.

Prior to preliminary plan review, the applicant shall demonstrate coordination with various agencies, as well as City Council approval for acquisition of some city-owned land, among other items. The master plan passed unanimously.