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195 district commission is shifting its development focus
The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission turns 12 years old this year, and its leaders agree: it’s time for a change of direction. After contributing to the development of several projects – many of which are residential – the commission will focus on more commercial developments, says Marc Crisafulli, newly appointed chairman of the commission. “I…
What you see here is incredibly naive and superficial comments bordering on mush. One of the problems with downtown Providence is the huge numbers of empty lots that symbolizes the lack of investment in the city. Developers buying office buildings and then turning around and selling them at a loss does not bode well for Providence’s reputation as a healthy or desirable place for commercial investment. The gauge of this health will always be the size of outside money coming into the area.
If you divide downtown Providence into three segments, original down city core, the Capital District and the I-195 district you see a similar pattern to all three. The Capital District, some 25 years laster, still has empty lots. Name the commercial developments that have risen in the the down city core, etc. RI has a housing shortage, the city needs to focus on building its population to better position for federal grants, so what is the reaction of RIers – dump on residential development and favor the folklore of commercial development ignoring the fact that not much in that area has come through the door in three decades. But, oh let’s try harder!! Sorry, Providence needs to deal with the reality of its situation and not some simple minded fantasy. If you haven’t noticed, not much has happened in new developments in recent months and putting a lid on residential developments will now insure that will continue.
The reason why so many projects focused on residential development was because there was so little interest in building commercial developments.
Post-pandemic more and more people are working from home so these giant business buildings are increasingly seen as dinosaurs of the past.
Follow the money, or in this case follow the ROI, (return on investment). There is a demand for housing but not for commercial. Proof? Look at all the empty commercial space typically due to covid. If there is no demand, no ROI and there for no investment
I agree with these comments. There is no change in focus. The 195 Commission has always tried to attract commercial development. Always tried to get corporations and the life sciences to build there. But until recently, there has been zero interest. Only interest has been in residential. Build commercial space? Why would a developer do that when the top two floors of the Wexford building have been empty for 5 years. Good news is that is changing now as those floors are about to be occupied, Bank RI HQ is moving there, state is moving its health lab to 195 and the commission is finally getting substantial sums for the land. But this has nothing to do with focus and everything to do with market demand.
Market analysis anyone? Plenty of office space in PVD, question is what kind do we need? If PVD office space is 1/2 the cost of Boston and still there is plenty what does that say? Citizens would have been great but that did not pan out under Raimondo. Surely someone smarter than me can read the tea leaves; but sticking to a plan developed 20 years ago does not seem like the best plan. Especially when people are trying to figure out how to turn office space into residential space. Boston has gone from 6.8% vacancy rate 2020 to 12.7% 2022.
Not sure why it has to be one of the other? Let the market determine who will build. With the RI Lab and Brown acquiring 10 lots and future lab build, more companies will be attracted to the area, but that takes time. It seems residential is taking off in other areas of the city (e.g superman building. Once new neighborhoods are established a level of commercial activity will occur) We just need to to not pick winners and lossers but promote those that want to invest.
The last question – Fane Tower, will it get built? There are pros and cons.
One aspect lacking in Providence is a vision of what the downtown population should be. Cities over the country have such views. For example, San Diego years ago defined the boundaries of their downtown, did a census of the population, knew exactly the number of rental apartments and the number of condos. Based on this info they established a target on the best population size besides defining the best mix of rentals and condos, preferring condos because that gives stability to the population not afforded by rentals. You never hear such thinking in Providence.