Apex plan shows private development paired with city park

Apex plan shows private development paired with city park

The conceptual plan for the Apex site in downtown Pawtucket.
Could Hasbro be a fit?

PAWTUCKET – A conceptual master plan for the Apex properties on Main Street shows the majority of the five parcels would be covered by residential mixed-use buildings, representing a potential significant jolt to economic development in the downtown.

Five buildings would be paired with surface parking lots and infrastructure upgrades, including a riverfront park. The all-important goal of acquiring site control would give the city the ability to control the future development of the properties, which have stagnated for more than a decade.

The park plan calls for overlooks of the river as well as a playground and possible splash park.

Apex is no longer part of the Fortuitous Partners development plan highlighted by a new soccer stadium further up the river, but acquiring and redeveloping Apex would allow the ability to connect that $300 million project with the rest of downtown.

The City Council last week approved sending a resolution calling for borrowing up to $20 million for the Apex property, including infrastructure upgrades, to the council’s subcommittees for consideration. Councilors expressed early support for the move after the city last month began a move toward taking the property by eminent domain.

The conceptual plan shows a pedestrian corridor going through the center of the property, along with realigned Main Street and School Street with added bike lanes. A mixed-use building is shown on the vacant George’s Games property, and two additional mixed-use buildings are shown on the opposite side of School Street, across the street from the main Apex Department Store site where another residential building and mixed-use building would be located.

The Breeze previously reported that city and PawSox officials were balking at a price tag of $20 million or more for the Apex properties to make way for an earlier baseball stadium proposal.

Chief of Staff Dylan Zelazo said this week that the council’s authorization would simply allow spending up to that amount on a negotiated purchase (now seen as unlikely) or acquiring the property through the eminent domain process. If and when the city gets to court proceedings, this fund is where the money would come from, he said. The money would cover needed demolition and cleanup of the property.

The $20 million doesn’t include project costs for redevelopment.

Zelazo noted the importance of site control in allowing the city to attract private developers, which would then allow the recouping of a significant amount of the city’s investment.

Asked about the long-rumored idea that city-based Hasbro could be interested in the site, after previously expressing interest in being part of the baseball stadium development, Zelazo said nothing can be ruled out.

“I’d say there’s potential for that site to be something right away or for it to evolve,” he said.

If tomorrow “a large-scale corporate user looking for space” saw Apex as the right spot, said Zelazo, “I think there are a number of options.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hasbro, which is headquartered on Newport Avenue in Pawtucket, had been said to be looking for a new campus-like property close to at least two major amenities for its employees. The baseball stadium and Guild brewery were seen as fitting those needs. Locating at the Apex site would also put the company closer to a new commuter station, set to open in 2022.

Zelazo emphasized that the vision is not to acquire the Apex property and keep it entirely as public open space. The overall goal, he said, is to activate the site and by extension drive economic development along the river and in downtown. The city purchasing the property would give “real direction for the site” instead of a “nebulous” situation where private ownership isn’t doing much but might do something in the future, said Zelazo. Most private developers don’t want to be associated with an eminent domain proceeding, he said, even if the situation with this particular property is a little bit different, so “site control is a massive issue.” It was also an issue cited frequently by the PawSox, he told The Breeze.

“Once you have site control, it’s different from being willing to get site control,” he said.

The general sentiment from most in city government is that this redevelopment is long overdue, said Zelazo, and while a negotiated purchase remains a possibility, the actions taken by the city allow for the possibility of eminent domain.


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A representative from the Apex companies released the following statement in response to the city’s proceedings:

“Over the last 18 months, the city and the Apex Companies, by and large, have worked well together,” it states. “We believe the best path forward for the acquisition of this property is to return to the negotiating table. We also believe this is the most cost-effective path for taxpayers.”

To further the city’s goals, the Apex Companies have put their own development plans on hold multiple times, reads the statement.

“Apex has only negotiated in good faith and will continue to do so given the opportunity,” it states.

Comments

I like the idea of a park along the river as long as it is safe and not taken over by people partying and blaring music, as is currently allowed at the fishing pier off of School St.

I don’t know why the city is obsessed with the apex site especially during a pandemic.... we lost memorial hospital and no one fought for it to stay , employing 800 + , we need a hospital in this city not a park and mixed use development.... small business can’t stay in business right now and the city thinks they will attract major developers ??? The Downtown is over and done as the days of the racetrack, the theaters the soda fountains.... unless Hasbro is interested I don’t see it ever panning out no big business is going to come here

No More! Going Going------