Homeless mostly vacate riverfront encampment

Homeless mostly vacate riverfront encampment

A homeless encampment off Taft Street was vacant Monday morning after officials told people there that they had to leave to make way for development work on a new soccer stadium set to begin. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET – The last of the homeless residents along the Taft Street side of the Seekonk River appeared to have cleared out of their encampment over the weekend after the city gave them a one-week extension to do so.

Residents of the tent city were ordered out after months of warning that development of a new soccer stadium and related amenities would get going in earnest this month.

On Monday, most tents had been removed or flattened and no residents could be found as heavy machinery kicked into gear nearby. Signs on the trees ordered “No trespassing, area under development.” Easy chairs were pulled up to a makeshift fireplace, and bags of unopened potato chips were piled nearby, and some people could later be seen coming and going from the site.

Geotechnical engineers and environmental professionals are now doing site work on the Tidewater parcel near the homeless encampment and across the Seekonk River at the 45 Division St. property.

With homeless residents not leaving by an initial March 15 deadline, work was started at 45 Division St. instead of the parcel across the river off Taft Street.

Officials say they continued to work with various agencies to try to help those being displaced from this public property, all in an effort to have them move in the most “amicable way possible.”

With help from the city and state, Fortuitous Partners is developing a United Soccer League stadium with nearby event center, hotel, housing and other amenities, all part of a $300 million project that will reshape Pawtucket’s long-dormant riverfront. The city is also continuing efforts to acquire the Apex Department store site located between 45 Division St. and the downtown area.

Crews will be doing some clearing of pathways to allow access for equipment to complete drilling for soil sampling and installation of groundwater monitoring wells. This initial phase of work is expected to remain active into May.

As previously reported, the only other site needing relocation to make way for the project on the Taft Street side of the river was the Taft Street Community Garden, which is now approved to be moved up the street and behind Varieur Elementary School.

The Taft Street encampment near Town Landing has seen fluctuations in the numbers of people living there over the past few months, making headlines in December when advocates sought to get them temporary shelter in area hotels during a major snowstorm. Hotel accommodations were maintained for those who wanted them for the remainder of the winter, according to officials.

The view of the Tidewater Landing stadium site, where preliminary work has now begun, from the Festival Pier across the Seekonk River.