Financing in place for riverfront project

Financing in place for riverfront project

A new rendering shows one view of the planned new Tidewater Stadium in Pawtucket.

PAWTUCKET – Tidewater Landing, Pawtucket’s riverfront redevelopment project centered on the sport of professional soccer, kicked into high gear last week with the Rhode Island Commerce Board’s approval of financing for the nearly $300 million project.

The Board of Directors approved a financing plan that will mean public investment is centered on public infrastructure improvements and not on the stadium itself, which will be privately financed. The investment is expected “to more than pay for itself and is slated to be the largest economic development project in Pawtucket’s history,” states a release. The project was approved by the Commerce Corporation Investment Committee last Thursday.

The City Council, at its meeting tonight, Feb. 10, is due to hold a public hearing on the creation of the new Riverfront Tidewater zoning district, a move meant to ease development of the various aspects of the project. The most significant design flexibility achieved with the proposed changes is the ability to build taller, the ability to construct multiple structures on a single parcel, and the ability to place parking on both sides of the river, or within a walkable distance through public and private parking options.

Developers have expressed confidence in the success of this riverfront project, citing as reasons for optimism the popularity and growth of similar soccer venues across the country and Rhode Island’s status as a top-10 viewership market for soccer.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to get started in the fourth quarter of 2021.

“On behalf of everyone at Fortuitous Partners, I want to express our thanks to Gov. (Gina) Raimondo, incoming Gov. (Dan) McKee, Mayor (Donald) Grebien and his team, and Secretary (Stefan) Pryor and Commerce R.I. for their support and the incredible amount of hard work that has culminated into making Tidewater Landing a reality,” said Brett Johnson, founder of developer Fortuitous Partners. “We are excited for this unique, sports-anchored live, work, play community and the launch of professional soccer at Tidewater Landing, to help transform Blackstone Valley and the city of Pawtucket and to provide an added source of pride for the great state of Rhode Island. With this exceptional milestone support from the city and state, we will break ground later this year, creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of positive social and economic impact, and we cannot wait to welcome Rhode Islanders to our inaugural home game in 2023. Thank you to all for your support and faith in this project and we are honored and grateful to move to this exciting next stage.”

The developers celebrated the approval by issuing new renderings of what the mixed-use project might eventually look like.

“Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to a near future where jobs, commercial activity, community and recreation come together to reinvigorate downtown Pawtucket,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo. “This land, which sat underdeveloped and underutilized for decades, will now serve as a catalyst for economic activity throughout Rhode Island.”

“Today is an exciting day for the future of the city of Pawtucket, Blackstone Valley and all of Rhode Island,” said Lieutenant Gov. Dan McKee. “This project puts us on the path to spark historic economic activity and revitalize downtown Pawtucket and its riverfront. I thank Mayor Don Grebien, our state and local leaders, the Fortuitous team and everyone who championed this project to help unleash the economic and recreational potential of downtown Pawtucket. This is only just the beginning.”

The more than $284 million project will take place on six parcels on both sides of the Seekonk River consisting of two sites (25 acres). The Tidewater site and the Division Street site and will be developed during two phases. The project will support more than 2,000 direct and indirect construction jobs and 940 direct and indirect ongoing jobs, according to those behind it.

The developers are also working with organizers of the Taft Street Community Garden on relocating that facility to make way for the project.

The initial phase will consist of a mixed-use development of 435 residential units with a 150-space garage, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, 56,750 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with the stadium and its accompanying 750-space parking garage. The stadium will contain a minimum of 7,500 seats and may be designed to accommodate up to 11,000 seats. The stadium will also be designed to accommodate the specific requirements for a United Soccer League Championship soccer club and will be the home of Rhode Island’s new USL Championship franchise. Phase 1 will also involve infrastructure and public space improvements such as utility and stormwater improvements, roadway and streetscape improvements, off-site infrastructure improvements, surface parking, public plaza spaces, and the development of 4,000+ linear feet of riverwalk and pedestrian bridge. Phase 2 will likely consist of an indoor entertainment and event venue, as well as a hotel.

“The pioneering city of Pawtucket helped to establish soccer as an important sport in the U.S. by hosting the first U.S. Open tournament over a century ago. Today’s announcement draws upon Pawtucket’s soccer heritage and helps to propel the city – and our state – into an era of ever greater economic vitality,” said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor, who also thanked other officials.

“On behalf of the city of Pawtucket, I thank the Commerce Board of Directors, the outgoing and incoming governors, Brett Johnson and the Fortuitous Partners, the Pawtucket City Council, the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, and Secretary Pryor, Jesse Saglio, Jeff Miller, and the entire Commerce R.I. team,” said Grebien. “Working together, we have achieved something that most can only dream of: a once-in-a-generation transformational project that will be a catalyst for future economic growth. This is a great deal for our state and Pawtucket. Hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment will be spurred by a fraction of the investment by the public sector.”

“The General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 to enable this important economic development project for downtown Pawtucket to be viable. The legislation, which was championed by the Pawtucket delegation, was intended to spur development and growth at our state’s northern gateway. Tidewater Landing is a transformative project for Pawtucket and for Rhode Island. We are very pleased that the Commerce Corporation is taking the next steps to move this exciting project forward,” Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and President of the Senate Dominick Ruggiero said in a joint statement.

The Commerce Corporation board approved the following:

• Use of defined district-specific revenues to enable financing a $36.2 million (combined city and state) Super TIF bond as outlined in the General Assembly’s enabling legislation. Funding will not come out of taxpayer funds, but will be based on new revenues.

• An investment in the form of a rebate on sales and use taxes related to construction materials on the project and Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credits estimated at up to $14 million ($10 million net).

Keeping within the framework of the project, which was announced in December of 2019, the public’s share of the project’s cost is at about 17 percent, or $46.2 million. As agreed upon by all parties, the public parties will not be required to increase incentive amounts as a result of cost overruns. Additionally, supplementary funding sources secured by the state (federal infrastructure grants) may reduce the state’s investment in the project.