Pawtucket Hampton Inn plans nearing fruition

THE HAMPTON INN to be built off Division Street in Pawtucket is seen as the potential linchpin for redevelopment of the city's waterfront.  /
THE HAMPTON INN to be built off Division Street in Pawtucket is seen as the potential linchpin for redevelopment of the city's waterfront. /

A long-delayed plan to build a Hampton Inn on Pawtucket’s waterfront is finally moving forward, with construction expected to begin this summer, after all the municipal permits have been secured, and with the hotel slated to open in the fall of next year.
The $15 million project is being developed by Carpionato Properties Inc., the Johnston-based owner of the Holiday Inn Express and the Crowne Plaza at the Crossings in Warwick. The plan is for a 100-room hotel with the capacity to add another 100 rooms.
The Hampton Inn will only be Pawtucket’s second hotel, after the 100-room Comfort Inn on George Street, which opened in 1969 and was recently renovated.
The city gets about $35,000 a year from the Comfort Inn through the state’s 1-percent local hotel tax, according to City Planner Michael Cassidy, so the Hampton Inn could double that revenue. But more important, as he and others see it, would be the impact on the city’s image.
The Hampton Inn would be right off Interstate 95, in a high-profile spot off Division Street, right on the Blackstone River and close to McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. Just seeing the construction, Cassidy said, will send the message to passersby that the city is moving forward.
“You can’t buy that kind of publicity,” he said.
Paul L. Ouellette, vice president of community development and work force training for the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, said the new hotel is in a “prime location,” and it will be convenient for business travelers looking for affordable rooms outside Boston or Providence.
Ouelette added that the Hampton Inn is part of a larger reinvestment in and revitalization of Pawtucket, which is also seeing several buildings transformed into condominiums, artists’ studios and more.
The idea of building a hotel on that site, however, predates much of that development. It first came up in 1997, as part of a discussion led by the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council to craft the Pawtucket Renaissance Riverfront Plan.
Robert Billington, president of the council, said the idea for the hotel came from the public, and city officials embraced it. As Billington sees it, the hotel is the “linchpin” of a broader effort to revitalize the Pawtucket riverfront through commercial and green space development.
The site itself was previously owned by General Motors Corp., and several car dealers occupied the land, Cassidy said. Eventually, GMC sold the land to the city in 1999 for $1.
When the project was first conceived, the developer involved was a company called Manhattan Hotel Development LLC, but the financing for the hotel fell through after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – the equity firm that was going to finance the hotel was in the World Trade Center. In 2003, Manhattan came back to the project with Carpionato as its partner. Manhattan dropped out of the project about a year and a half ago, Cassidy said.
Carpionato initially proposed a Holiday Inn Express for the site, but then it opted to make the hotel a Hampton Inn instead, saying that the latter franchise would allow for more features to be added that would appeal to the corporate market, such as meeting spaces.
The project appeared to be ready to proceed three years ago, but then there were more delays. Now, Cassidy said, Carpionato has been working closely with Pawtucket building officials for the last six months, so he’s confident that the construction plans will be approved quickly.
The developer still needs a building permit, which requires fire, electrical and building inspectors to sign off on the plans, Cassidy said.
John Kokot, vice president of development for Carpionato, said the company expects to begin construction in the summer. The cost of materials has risen substantially in the last several years, he noted, so while in 2004, the project was expected to cost $12 million, it’s now $15 million.

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