PROVIDENCE – At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Angel Taveras outlined a 20-step economic development action plan to “put Providence residents back to work and jump-start the economy of Rhode Island’s capital city.”
In a release, Taveras said that Providence’s economy must be built on the success of a wide variety of industries and business sectors.
Taveras outlined five immediate steps that his administration plans to pursue to help grow the city’s economy, including: freeze the commercial tax rate, fix the city’s permitting process, remove barriers to redevelopment, develop surface lots citywide and reinvent Kennedy Plaza.
The seven-year commercial real estate tax freeze will guarantee consistency and stability for developers in Rhode Island, according to a release. “Freezing our commercial property tax rate will send a message that Providence is serious about attracting new business. We look forward to the day when economic growth in our city enables us to actually lower Providence’s commercial rate,” Taveras said in prepared remarks.
In the budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which Taveras plans to present to the City Council in April, are two new positions to staff a new unit in the Department of Inspections and Standards. The positions will focus solely on reviewing and approving small-permit applications of less than $100,000, projects that account for 75 percent of all permit applications in the city. This summer, Providence also plans to move its permit application process online for the first time.
To “remove barriers to redevelopment,” Providence plans to conduct an inventory of all major properties in need of redevelopment. Properties not defined as historic landmarks will be put on a fast track for approval to replace existing structures with new construction.
“We recognize that the city has an important role to play in facilitating new development. It is time to get cranes in the air and put people to work rebuilding our city,” Taveras said in a statement.
To stimulate real estate development in Providence and to “ease the crunch on parking downtown,” Taveras said he plans to work with the City Council to provide tax stabilizations to developers who commit to new development on existing surface lots.
Finally, the administration outlined its plans to “reinvent” Kennedy Plaza by working with the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, the R.I. Public Transit Authority and other private partners to reduce the number of buses in the plaza and transform it into a “pedestrian destination.”
Taveras also announced a regional marketing campaign calling visitors to “Come to Providence” and enjoy the city’s restaurants, museums, parks, zoo, festivals, theaters, shops and arts events.
“This action plan presents a road map to a new era of opportunity and prosperity for Providence. I am excited to work with my team to implement these actions and accelerate economic growth in our City,” James Bennett, Providence’s director of economic development, said in a statement.