Pawtucket creates public art program fed by construction fees

PAWTUCKET – The city has adopted a public art program, financed with a percentage fee of varying amount that is tied to construction values on significant projects.

The program, called the “Pawtucket Percent for Public Art,” will create a fund for public art commissions.

It will apply to city construction projects involving buildings, except public schools, that exceed $500,000. These projects will pay 1 percent of total construction cost into the fund, capped at $150,000 per project.

Private projects that receive a city subsidy, typically a tax stabilization agreement, also will be subject to the program if they exceed $1 million in construction value. These projects will pay 1 percent of the total construction cost, up to a cap of $200,000 per project.

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Projects for nonprofit developments or affordable housing will also be expected to contribute, but only a half-percent of the construction cost, according to Jay Rosa, a senior planner for the city.

To help development teams recover their expenses in contributing funds to the program, the city has concurrently approved an extension of future TSA agreements by one year. The city now offers two programs, depending on the size of the investment, that offer either a six-year or an 11-year phase-in of taxes.

The art program fee is not intended to be applied to projects that are financed with loans or bonds. The city has not determined, for example, whether it would apply to the proposed Pawtucket Red Sox ballpark, which would be financed through public and private investment, including three bond issues.

The City Council approved the public art program, which will be administered by an advisory commission on arts and culture, in coordination with the council’s finance committee and the city Department of Planning and Redevelopment.

The city of Providence is evaluating how to revise its own public art program, which was created in 1980 but never activated through financing.

The state of Rhode Island also has a public art program, which places public art in buildings that also contribute a 1 percent fee of the total construction cost.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at