News on Apex future could be weeks away

News on Apex future could be weeks away

PAWTUCKET – City officials are saying that another few weeks could shed light on how the Apex properties might be incorporated into the $400 million Tidewater Landing project on the riverfront.

An attorney for Apex told the City Planning Commission at its June 11 meeting that the redevelopment of the company’s cluster of underperforming properties on the city’s riverfront, as proposed in an original master plan, has been impacted by ongoing discussions on how they may or may not be incorporated into a larger riverfront project.

That impact, said Joshua Glass, was the primary reason for a request for an extension on a master plan for the property, which the commission ended up approving in a 3-2 vote.

Officials confirmed that confidential discussions continue on the 100 Main St. property, which so far has been excluded from most public announcements about a $400 million riverfront project headlined by a new soccer stadium and other amenities from Fortuitous Partners on two other properties, but has been suggested as a possible landing spot for city-based toymaker Hasbro to be part of that larger project.

The owners of the mostly blighted Apex properties sought and were approved for an extension on the previous master plan calling for a mix of office and commercial use for one additional year, to expire July 1, 2021.

Assistant Director of Planning & Redevelopment Jay Rosa said state law maintains a two-year approval period for master plan proposals. Applicants have the right to request two more one-year extension periods, provided that the requests are reviewed and approved by the commission. The four-year period in total is described as the applicant’s “vested right.”

Rosa confirmed that Apex received the first such extension in June of 2019 and this month was before the commission requesting the second extension. Based on the language of the state statute on this matter, Rosa stated he had no objection to this request for extension.

Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle submitted a memo for the record requesting that the commission consider tabling the extension request for a month to be reconsidered in July. The additional time would allow for ongoing coordination between the city and Apex on future redevelopment of the properties as they may be related to wider development along the riverfront in the area, she said.

Glass suggested that the extension request would not adversely impact ongoing confidential conversations between Apex and the city on future redevelopment potential.

Member Monique Renaud questioned if elements of the master plan approval on record are to be modified, and if this potential for modification was the reasoning for the suggestion to table the request for extension. Boyle said that modifications may occur, but more specifically the additional month of coordination would allow for more public information regarding the proposed Tidewater Landing project from Fortuitous, particularly as it may be related to the Apex properties in question. She said the additional information may provide commission members with important context in their consideration of this request for master plan extension.

Glass confirmed that negotiation between Apex and the city regarding redevelopment of the properties is ongoing. However, he stated that the properties in question are privately owned and it is the owner’s right to request the extension.

Chairman Steven Pedro suggested that he does not see how a deferral of action on the request may affect ongoing discussions regarding future use and design. Should a revised plan arise, it can be presented to the commission even if the request for extension was granted.

Pedro questioned if the tabling of this matter would adversely impact the applicant’s vested rights if a decision on the extension was not reached prior to July 1. Boyle stated that she conferred with the city solicitor and he did not anticipate that tabling the request would prevent the applicant from seeking approval of the extension at a later date, provided that a written decision confirming the extension or continuation of the request is recorded.

Member Stephanie Olarte suggested that the timing is concerning if a decision is not reached prior to July 1, or the anticipated expiration of the prior one-year extension.

Member Ted Martins suggested that the applicant has not demonstrated sufficient progress toward redevelopment of the sites based on the master plan proposal originally submitted, approved, and still on record. Renaud made a motion to postpone the request for one month, but the motion was not seconded. Member Karen Kolodziej made a motion to approve the request for a one-year extension of master plan approval to expire on July 1, 2021. Olarte seconded the motion, and it was approved 3-2.