Pawtucket moves to enable use of eminent domain for Apex site

Updated at 3: 45 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2020.

THE CITY OF PAWTUCKET has made preliminary moves to enable the use of eminent domain over the five privately-owned parcels that constitute the Apex site in Downtown Pawtucket. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ARTISTIC IMAGES
THE CITY OF PAWTUCKET has made preliminary moves to enable the use of eminent domain over the five privately owned parcels that constitute the Apex site downtown. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ARTISTIC IMAGES

PAWTUCKET – The city has taken preliminary moves to acquire the Apex site by eminent domain.

The city sent a letter to the Pawtucket City Council and Redevelopment Agency seeking amendments to the city’s redevelopment plan to enable the use of eminent domain over the five parcels that constitute the site.

“Years of good faith negotiations for purchase have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful,” the city said on Friday, referring to drawn out negotiations with property owner Andrew Gates. The city noted in its announcement that it would still prefer to acquire the property in a consensual sale, rather than by eminent domain, calling on the Apex Ownership Group to continue negotiations with the city.

“We’ve been clear that it is the policy preference of the administration and the Pawtucket City Council that an agreement to purchase be reached, as opposed to the use of eminent domain,” said Jeanne Boyle, commerce director for Pawtucket. “To that end, we have worked tirelessly to negotiate in good faith. However, after years of negotiations, we have reached a point where it appears as though the parties will not be able to agree upon a fair price. Eminent domain is a tool in the toolbox, that, while we did not want to exercise, will enable the acquisition of the properties so that downtown Pawtucket can continue to move forward.”

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If the property is acquired, the city would conduct a request for proposals for use of the land. The site was recently removed from renderings of the new Tidewater Landing project by the developer, Fortuitous Partners.

“Pawtucket residents deserve a downtown that they can be proud of,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “We’ve worked so hard with the Pawtucket City Council, the Pawtucket Foundation, local businesses, our state and federal elected leaders, and others to move downtown forward. While there is still much work to do, ensuring that the Downtown Gateway Project provides recreational and economic opportunities for our city will go a long way toward revitalizing downtown.”

Apex Ownership Group issued a statement Friday afternoon, agreeing with the sentiment that a negotiated sale would be preferable to eminent domain actions.

“We agree with the city that the best path forward for the acquisition of this property is consensual agreement.  We have been at the negotiating table in good faith and will continue to be,” the company said.

“The Apex Group had its own development plans put on hold as it knows the city wants to acquire the property. The best path forward and the most cost-effective path for taxpayers is good faith negotiations and for everyone to return to the negotiating table,” the statement continued. “Again, we have only negotiated in good faith, we are not miles apart and believe consensus can be reached.”

This story has been updated to include comment from the Apex Ownership Group.

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  1. My suggestion is to re-purpose the Apex building into a true RI Factory Outlet and Museum. Feature all things Made in RI from our early history to present from the smallest item to the largest. Possibly move the BVTC there and make it a gateway to RI as an ambassadorship concept to invite commerce from around the world to learn of the opportunity we offer for Manufacturing – all directly across from Slater Mill: The Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.

  2. My suggestion would be to turn the Apex facility Into an Aquarium that would be tied to the University of Rhode Island School of Oceanography and its Bay Campus. This tie to one of the country’s preeminent schools of oceanography would make the Aquarium truly unique and distinguish it from the New England Aquarium in Boston and the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. One of the features of the Aquarium could be a fleet of exhibition vessels that would traverse Narragansett Bay, making a series of learning cruises of varying length between Pawtucket and the URI Bay Campus. The cruises would explore and point out various features and unique phenomena, flora, fauna and marine species that make up the Narragansett Bay and its estuary system.