Baldelli-Hunt names education center, Barry Field project top priorities in 2021

Baldelli-Hunt names education center, Barry Field project top priorities in 2021

As a new year begins, The Valley Breeze posed questions to local municipal leaders about their plans for the upcoming year and to reflect on the previous one. Here is our interview with Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt on her priorities for Woonsocket and thoughts on the city’s growth during 2020.

What do you anticipate the next six months will look like for Woonsocket, particularly as we work to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?

“Many families have suffered loss due to this terrible virus and understand more than most the hurt and pain associated with it. We are all hopeful that 2021 will bring health and stability to our city. There will be a continuous effort of coordination in assisting our residents with the ability to be vaccinated. While we continue to work our way through this horrific pandemic, our goal is to bring ‘life’ and vibrancy back into Woonsocket with a sense of safety. We all want people feeling comfortable in leaving their homes and being active outside of their four walls. Our business community has been shaken as well and looks forward to patrons frequenting their establishments and socializing once again.”

What are your top three 
goals for 2021?

“As it has been and continues to be, my administration is results driven. We are fortunate to have very committed directors, chiefs and city employees. We will continue to focus on the quality of life while looking to move forward some projects I feel are very important to our residents and the city as a whole. Projects that the constituents of this city have also shared as being of importance to them.

The build out of the Higher Education Center on Main Street is of major significance and will be the home of well-respected companies who will provide training and jobs to our residents and residents of other cities and towns. The influx of human capital to our Main Street will drive business to existing restaurants and retail and create interest for additional businesses located in our downtown.

Bringing additional athletic fields and recreational space to Cass Park, situated beside our high school and vocational school, has been of importance to me and a goal I would like to carry through. This will benefit all residents of our city, including scholar-athletes, and encourage homeownership within Woonsocket. We are blessed to have over a 60-acre park beside our schools, and the placement of our track and field can be significant.

As we are aware, the super majority of our residents would like to see an additional supermarket in our city. With the construction of our athletic fields at Cass Park, this may allow us to utilize Barry Field for development. This 22-acre site is situated in a desirable area for development. We currently have interest and I look forward to working with whichever committees, boards or councils are necessary to make this a reality for our constituents.”

What did the community accomplish in the past year that positioned it well for 2021?

“Although our main priority was the health and well-being of our residents, the administration was able to continue to work towards positioning Woonsocket for growth.

The most significant accomplishment that was not health-related was the approval of the Higher Education Center that will be located on Main Street. I feel this will be the catalyst that will propel our downtown. I have worked in conjunction with the governor’s office to assure this becomes a reality and my belief is it will change the whole dynamic of our Main Street and downtown area. Our community continued to have interest from investors, which has created ground up construction and development within the city (i.e. Domino’s, O’Reilly’s and Family Dollar). We are also continuing to work with investors who are showing interest throughout the city. Also new to Woonsocket is CSL Plasma, Oak Street Health, California Taco and others. Also very encouraging are the new storefronts that are emerging on Main Street: Geri’s Bluffing Boutique, Angel’s (clothing boutique), Babe Kave (beauty salon), BL Beauty and more on the way.

Residential growth has not slowed down, 42 single-family homes have been built (plus 27 and one duplex under construction), some attracting new families to our communities, others creating first time homeownership for current residents, while some families are purchasing to expand their living space. This growth of single-family homes is a testament to improved quality of life in Woonsocket and the services we offer. The reduction in our residential tax rate over the last five years has played a role in (homeowners) choosing Woonsocket to call home.

Additionally, we were able to secure multiple grants to allow us to begin or continue the work in cleaning up historically abandoned, contaminated mill sites that have been left unaddressed for years. These sites have the potential to be developed in various ways, including the development of solar arrays.”

What were the biggest challenges of 2020 that weren’t widely publicized?

“Though COVID-19 was the most widely publicized circumstance of 2020, there was a plethora of details and coordination that needed to be addressed on a continuous and very fluid basis. Keeping the wheels of government in motion while addressing the needs and concerns of the community was a priority.”

What, if any, were the silver 
linings of 2020?

“In general, my belief is the silver lining of 2020 was the recognition of the importance of health and well-being. In a year of uncertainty and change, it was and is important to reflect on what matters most in life. The year 2020 has made many take a step back and realize how fragile life is and what is truly important.”

Comments

Barry Field has three busy supermarkets right in the immidiate area now and a 4'th there would be a foolish waste besides creating a traffic nightmare ... ONLY the mayor wants a supermarket at Barry Field ... Most people want a real Supermarket on Diamond Hill like we had before Shaws was literally taxed out of Woonsocket ...possibly in the old Sears or the old Roller Kingdom lot ... We have PriceRite but they are hardly a supermarket.., Very small and extremely limited choices and often poorly stocked and unable to keep up with the huge number of customers ...

Are all politicians hard of hearing when it comes to what the people want? There's no way Smithfield Road can tolerate more traffic, the demographics aren't going to support another supermarket at Barry Field, & wasn't Barry Field donated to the city of Woonsocket to be used exclusively for athletics? Wake up!!!

I am wondering how the Mayor plans to get around the big issue that needs to be addressed before she can put a for sale sign out.

The restrictive covenant on the deed says, “…to hold the title to said premises and to use, manage and control the same only for the purpose of an athletic field and playground for the pupils of the public schools in the city of Woonsocket, said use, management and control to be exercised only through and by the school committee from time to time existing in said City of Woonsocket…”

Shouldn't the school committee be spoken with before making posters, holding press conferences and issuing press releases?

People are right - Barry Field is not an intelligent position for a supermarket in the city. There is a huge parcel of land on Hamlet Ave (across from the Middle School) that has been for sale for years. It is centrally located, already has a traffic light there, and will be within walking distance for the city's most needy residents. Is she thinking clearly??

If a big supermarket wanted to be in Woonsocket they would go to any Location on Diamond Hill. We had a market and we lost it partly because the residents behind the old Walmart. We also lost Shaw's because of tax implications. Residents need to understand we will not get a legit supermarket in this city....not in its current state. The lower income demographic in Woonsocket won't support a top tier market. Residents will get a Price Chopper, Aldi, Dollar General and Price Right. If you want a quality supermarket then you need to go outside the city. Best advice is to sell your home while the market is high and move to another City. Woonsocket is a City on the move.....just not in the right direction.