Tidewater zoning approved; owners non-committal on affordable units

Tidewater zoning approved; owners non-committal on affordable units

PAWTUCKET – Tidewater Landing now has the flexible zoning it needs to proceed on the city’s riverfront after the City Council last week approved creation of the Riverfront Tidewater District.

A week after the state approved financing incentives for the project, the City Council approved the zoning changes for the development that will allow the ability to build taller structures and place multiple buildings on a single parcel, among other changes.

Several council members and residents at the Feb. 10 virtual council meeting spoke of their desire for affordable housing to be implemented into the mixed-use project, but Dan Kroeber of Fortuitous Partners was reluctant to commit to incorporating it.

Answering Councilor Ama Amponsah’s question about affordable units, Kroeber said the developers are in the process of figuring out the exact mix of housing, but it’s a difficult topic with many perspectives. Affordable housing does require some support through tax credits and other means to make it work, said Kroeber, so though Fortuitous is “absolutely considering” affordable housing, more due diligence and research on available programs needs to be done first.

Resident Adam Cable said he thinks the project that’s planned a couple of blocks from his home is a great one, addressing an eyesore brownfield, and said he looks forward to using a planned Riverwalk. Cable said he would like to see a company that’s getting “incredible amounts of tax incentives” to build this riverfront project put up affordable housing with it, saying “it’s only right that Pawtucket gets something from that (package of incentives).”

Resident Philip West again urged the council to put affordable housing at the top of its agenda, saying he’s been deeply disappointed as past proposals have been shelved. COVID-19 has only made life worse for many people, he said, and he urged the council to declare an affordable housing crisis and create a committee to work on the situation.

Councilor Alexis Schuette said the ordinance before the council last week didn’t directly address the question of affordable housing, but she urged the developers to make the soccer stadium-centered development a contributor to making life more sustainable for residents. She said an ad hoc committee should be formed to dig into the issue of citywide affordable housing.

Assistant Planning Director Jay Rosa mapped out the changes to zoning before the council approved them. On building height, he said none will end up reaching a higher point than the tallest buildings in downtown Pawtucket because of the significant slope everything is on. The current height limit is 45 feet here, he said, and the new maximum will be 120 feet.

Kroeber then stated that he doesn’t expect any building to be more than six stories, so in the 60- to 80-foot range, and the only structures that will approach 120 feet are the light towers needed for the stadium. There’s a benefit with those taller lights, he said, as they better direct light and keep glare from spilling into surrounding neighborhoods.

The owners of the yarn store building across the street from Tidewater Landing’s 45 Division St. parcel said they’re happy to see the project proceeding, but had several concerns, including whether the planned event center across the street might be so tall that it blocks their solar panels. Kroeber responded that the buildings have been planned so they have no impact on that aspect. He said the event center would be a single-level space, including basketball and volleyball courts, among other amenities.

Answering questions about green energy, Kroeber said the developers are very much interested in incorporating renewable energy into the project.