It’s a moment Providence, the state and especially the seven members of the Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission have been waiting for.
After two-and-a-half years planning, permitting, hiring and marketing, the panel appointed to rebuild 27 acres of publicly owned downtown parkland and real estate finally has concrete offers in hand.
On May 19 the commission plans to reveal exactly how many offers, and for how many square feet of new housing, stores or office space those offers represent, even if more precise details will have to wait a little longer.
Although the process of building out the 17 parcels known as The Link is expected to take many years to complete, the commission has made clear its desire to attract as much interest from as many different organizations in as many different places as possible. It was that goal of drawing the widest possible range of proposals that prompted the panel to adopt a since-revised bid-confidentiality policy.
A strong set of proposals would show that the commission’s pitch of location, site preparation and pre-permitting has created demand in Link parcels that doesn’t exist for the many vacant lots elsewhere in the city.
Attracting bids from outside the Ocean State would also show the marketing campaign, led by Chicago-based broker Jones Lang LaSalle, has been effective.
And that could help build confidence in the current process among state leaders ultimately responsible for the former highway land, both those now in office and those looking to take over after the upcoming November elections.
Next January, the commission will have a new mayor to work with on Link infrastructure and for chosen developers to negotiate with over property taxes.
Commissioners also could have new lawmakers voting on their annual budget and the scope of the panel’s authority.
But the next governor, with the power to appoint commissioners, will likely have the most direct impact on the commission.
This spring, candidates from each party have weighed in with criticism of the way the highway land has been handled.
Responding to reports of low turnout at recent Link information sessions, Republican Ken Block suggested putting the entire process on hold until the market strengthens or new leadership can improve the business climate enough to spur demand.