The future of the former Shooters nightclub property on the Providence waterfront sits delicately poised between the destination performing-arts venue a community group envisions and the sad, vacant lot it is today.
After years of fighting Shooters redevelopment plans, a group of Fox Point residents is now cheering the proposal by Bowl Arts LLC to turn the land into an art center and outdoor concert pavilion.
“We are encouraged and excited about the possibility of this becoming a lively, public attraction,” said David Riley, spokesman of the Head of the Bay Gateway, which blocked plans for condominiums on the site and now backs the Bowl Arts proposal.
But as exciting as the concept of a harbor-side summer-performance space sounds, it’s still some distance from becoming reality.
The R.I. Department of Environmental Management, which owns the property, remains undecided on whether it will offer Bowl Arts a lease, with the finances of the project the major concern.
Despite the attractive waterfront setting, private developers and nonprofits were scared away from the Shooters property when the state solicited bids for it last summer because of strict restrictions on what they could do there.
Although many inquired, Bowl Arts was the only group to answer the request for proposals, which barred any project that included residences and required developers to pay property taxes on the land even though they could only sign a 20-year lease.
Lisa Primiano, deputy chief of the DEM division of planning and development, said this month that although the Bowl Arts proposal “did meet the minimum threshold” laid out in the RFP, the state had asked the group to refine and flesh out the details. DEM has also asked the R.I. Economic Development Corporation to review and work on the proposal to see if it will be viable.
“We thought it had some commercial potential,” Primiano said about the Bowl Arts proposal, which she declined to discuss in detail and has not been made public. “We asked them to come back with more information that will either solidify their position for a lease or not.”
The Bowl Arts plan is being reviewed by a five-member panel that includes a city representative, neighborhood resident and DEM officials.
Primiano said Bowl Arts has been asked to come back to the panel with more information before the end of the month. After that, a decision on whether the state will proceed with the plan should come in early April, she said.