PAWTUCKET – Rhode Island Energy has done “remarkable work” cleaning up the Tidewater Landing site with an eye toward development of a future soccer stadium, says Dan Kroeber, director of development for Fortuitous Partners.
The utility company “has spent a lot of money bringing this property back to life,” Kroeber told The Breeze, helping lay the groundwork for a successful project.
“We’re 99 percent done with work underneath the stadium,” said Kroeber.
He said it’s been a great few weeks since a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Tidewater Landing site, with work continuing to remove or cap the remainder of industrial contaminants from this previously unusable site on Pawtucket’s riverfront. R.I. Energy had been setting plans to clean up this site as required for some 20 years, said Kroeber, but the plan had essentially been to fence it off and leave it. The company has been great about working with Fortuitous and its partners to instead tackle the site with a stadium in mind, at a grade where the facility can be built from a clean pad, he said.
Tens of thousands of yards of contaminated earth are now sealed off under a geomembrane cap, and an entire embankment measuring a couple thousand feet has been rebuilt, with no further percolation of contaminants through groundwater into the Pawtucket River.
The idea, said Kroeber, was to avoid having to go back into the ground at a later date.
“Just that progress is incredible,” he said of the contamination cleanup and capping.
In addition to the millions of dollars invested by R.I. Energy to this point, Fortuitous Partners has also put some $15 million into the project, said Kroeber.
Much attention was paid to some coal tar oils from the site leaking into the river last December, with several gallons of contamination from disturbed soil breaching containment booms in the river, but stories at the time went into little detail about the extent of cleanup work at the contaminated riverfront site that had sat vacant for 50 years after functioning as a manufactured gas and electric generation plant since the late 1800s.
“It sat in a completely economically useless state for a long time,” said Kroeber. This milestone of having it sealed off and cleaned up is “super exciting for us,” he added.
The beauty of all of this, he said, is that R.I. Energy was going to do the work no matter what, but the utility provider wasn’t likely to use it for anything beneficial if this specific development plan hadn’t come along.
“That’s why it’s such a beautiful partnership,” he said.
Remediation work late last year included a contractor compacting six to eight feet of soil to make it suitable for future construction. Kroeber said he expects residents will start seeing structures going up at the stadium site in the next couple of months, with foundations formed first.
Fortuitous, with financing help from the city and state, is developing a nearly $400 million mixed-use project at Tidewater Landing and across the river.
Drainage is currently being installed around the perimeter of the site, and a future field base with permeable fieldstone is also being set down, allowing it to “drain incredibly well” in the future, said Kroeber.
There are many great water quality improvements being made here, he added, including new sand filters. Those and drainage work will all precede the next contracts on the project, and Fortuitous has now commenced with environmental studies on the balance of the project, including for retail and housing space.
The developer expects a remedial action work plan to be approved in the next six to eight weeks, and will also be seeking proposals from architects and engineers to continue design work. State permitting is also expected.
Asked to respond to public questioning of whether the developer will be able to complete other aspects of this project, after state financing was moved forward into the stadium phase of the project, and whether they would seek to pass off any components of it, Kroeber said there are no current plans for that.
“We’re 100 percent committed to making the entire project happen,” he said, adding that they’ve maintained from the beginning that to transform Pawtucket’s waterfront, “it can’t just be the stadium.” What’s going to create the waterfront destination is everything planned for around the professional soccer facility, he said, including public recreation amenities, housing, retail and commercial space.
Asked whether needed investment financing for the project is at or near achieved for the project, Kroeber said they’re “very close” to having all investors lined up.
“There’s been incredible support and excitement from the investment community,” he said, with many Rhode Islanders and people beyond the state’s borders who “share the vision and excitement for what we’re building.”