Council will consider sale of Morley Field

Council will consider sale of Morley Field

PAWTUCKET – The City Council’s property subcommittee is set to review a proposed purchase and sale agreement that would see the city sell off Morley Field in Woodlawn to a private developer for $550,000.

As The Breeze previously reported, JK Equities LLC is looking to purchase the 94 Moshassuck St. property located next to the old Microfibres site at 1 Moshassuck St. to add it to its redevelopment as a modern distribution center.

A draft agreement on the agenda for this Thursday, July 22, negotiated between the city and JK Equities, calls for selling the 5-acre city property to JK Equities for $550,000, and the buyer would also pay the city certain costs associated with relocating the existing public recreation facilities to an alternate location. Those costs are tabbed at $1.5 million, but are subject to the parties negotiating in good faith during an investigation period.

Assistant Planning Director Jay Rosa indicated in a letter to the council that planners have no objection to the proposed sale and its terms.

“Several alternate properties are being evaluated for their viability to develop a replacement public recreation facility should this proposal to acquire Morley Field move forward,” he wrote. “Consideration of acquisition costs, site design potential, location, and public access are all important criteria in this evaluation process.”

Rosa indicated that initial conversations have happened with owners of potential recreation replacement properties as part of a due diligence process.

“The overall goal for the city, in coordination with JK Equities, is to establish an enhanced public recreation amenity that exceeds the minimum replacement requirements established by (the National Park Service and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management),” he said.

Dylan Zelazo, chief of staff to Mayor Donald Grebien, said on Monday that the city’s goal is always to maintain as much recreational space within each neighborhood as possible, and officials are looking “first and foremost” at properties that would keep the new creation space “proximate” to the current Morley Field.

As reported earlier this month, because the athletic facility built in the 1970s is a designated public recreation facility and partially funded by a National Park Service grant, it is restricted to recreational use only unless the city follows a strict recreation conversion process managed by the state and federal agencies to create a replacement recreation amenity for the community that is of equal or greater size and equal or greater value than Morley Field.

Under federal regulations, the new field couldn’t be developed on property the city already owns, even if it’s on one that was previously developed into something else and could be torn down.

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Zelazo said this week that the city’s primary focus is not on making a profit from this sale, but on making sure that residents, particularly youth, have high quality recreational facilities. That focus is even greater than the goal of creating quality economic development and bringing jobs as the JK Equities proposal does. Zelazo said the city will not be cutting any corners to make a profit, but will “do right by the residents first.”