PBN’s most-read stories of 2022

THE SALE of a piece of one of the last Ann & Hope department store buildings in the state brought back a flood of memories for PBN readers. The January story was the most read of 2022 on PBN.com. /SCREENSHOT VIA GOOGLE MAPS

From developments with the potential to reshape the landscape of Providence and a steady stream of million-dollar home sales across Rhode Island, to ongoing COVID-19 challenges, elections and statewide leadership changes, the top stories of 2022 left an enduring mark on Providence Business News readers and the state.

Below is a month-by-month look at the most-read stories on PBN.com, starting with the story that got more attention from PBN readers than any other in 2022. It was the sale of Warwick property that was once part of a Rhode Island institution, the now shuttered Ann & Hope department stores.

January:

The year kicked off with the multimillion-dollar sale of a former section of the now-closed Ann & Hope curtain and bath outlet store in Warwick. The section, which contains a 147,000-square-foot commercial condominium at 1689 Post Road in Warwick, was sold by WJG Realty Co. LLC to Crossroads Capital Fund VI LLC for $7 million. Crossroads Capital Fund is managed by Jeffrey Saletin, president of Saletin Real Estate Group, and Cris Crecelius, a principal at the Cranston-based commercial real estate development firm and property manager.

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“We’re very excited about a parcel of that size located within half a mile of the airport,” said Saletin, who added the company was still unsure on how to use the property. “Our business is primarily the business of acquiring extremely well-located real estate that many times are tired and need to be repositioned in the marketplace. That is why we acquired the property.” Read the story here.

More popular stories in a busy news month:

  • Leadership changes occurred throughout 2022, with resignations and promotions making headlines almost every month. Another popular story among readers in January– and fourth-most read all year – was the resignation of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott as the director of the R.I. Department of Health. After Alexander-Scott’s resignation, Dr. James McDonald took on the role of interim director, a position that was short-lived as McDonald stepped down in July. Dr. Utpala Bandy was then named new interim director of the department.
  • The University of Rhode Island employed the top two bread winners in the state – and six of the top 10 – among state employees in 2021. Readers were interested enough to make it the seventh-most-read story of the year.
  • Hasbro Inc. named Chris Cocks its permanent replacement for Brian Goldner, the longtime CEO who died of cancer the previous year. It was the eighth-most-read story of 2022.

February:

Gov. Daniel J. McKee (AP FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE)

On Feb. 11, Gov. Daniel J. McKee ended the indoor masking and proof of vaccination mandates in Rhode Island. The mandates had been in place for almost two months, but a decline in the number of cases and hospitalizations prompted McKee to ease some of COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’ve made considerable progress against COVID-19 and the recent surge,” McKee said. “We’re in a much better place than we were in early January. This is a result of Rhode Islanders stepping up to do the right thing, in terms of vaccination and testing. … We have to learn how to manage COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of the virus.” See the story, the ninth-most read of the year, here.

More popular stories:

  • The proposed merger between Rhode Island’s two largest hospital systems kept the interest of Rhode Islanders for most of 2021. But it was February 2022 when that dream officially came to an end, when Attorney General Peter F. Neronha denied the proposed merger, citing concerns about competition in the market and the impact of the merger on costs.
  • In February, state officials scrapped a contested plan to split the central downtown bus hub in Kennedy Plaza, a plan that had drawn backlash from riders, businesses and community groups.
  • The closure of the R.I. Office of Innovation happened in June 2021, but one of February’s most-read articles explores some of the behind the scenes of the closure. The office, established in 2016 under then-Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and which helped launch more than 20 programs, was always meant to be temporary according to state and office employees. State leadership shifts in 2021 hastened its closure.

March:

HAYDEN RADKE, an engineer at DBV Technology, works with Ropeless RISER technology in Narragansett Bay. COURTESY ROPELESS SYSTEMS

Harold “Bud” Vincent, president of DBV Technology LLC in North Kingstown, talks about one of his company’s signature products in the most-read story in March 2022. The RISER, “remote instrumentation and submerged equipment recovery,” is a ropeless trap for fishing that uses underwater acoustics to send signals to gear on the ocean floor. This signal triggers an underwater bag on the trap to inflate with air, bringing the fishing equipment to the surface for unloading and reuse. Unlike traditional traps, the RISER eliminates the risk of ropes hurting other marine wildlife and littering the ocean. Read the story here.

More popular stories:

  • CVS Health Corp. fired several employees and executives in March following an internal investigation examining how the company handled sexual harassment complaints.
  • Several real estate developments reshaped Providence downtown in 2022. Paolino Properties LP purchased The Westminster Square Building, also known as the Howard Building, at 10 Dorrance St. for $6.55 million at a public auction in March. Joseph R. Paolino Jr., managing partner of Paolino Properties, said he wants to improve the property so it can help contribute to the revival of the downtown area.

April:

PBN FILE PHOTO/PAMELA BHATIA

The tallest building in Providence made headlines all year, catching the attention of Rhode Islanders eager to know what’s next for the historic building. The Industrial Trust Co. Building, known as the “Superman” building, remained empty for years before state officials announced a $220 million project in April to renovate the property and revive it into apartments, office, retail and event space. The renovation is supported by $41 million in state and city financing and is expected to “breathe life” into downtown Providence, said McKee.

“I look forward to having the ribbon cutting at the appropriate time and making that building the iconic structure that it always has been,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio. “[The project] will help reinvigorate downtown Providence, attracting businesses and investment into our capital city.” It was the fifth-most-read story in 2022. Read it here.

More popular stories:

  • The state’s best places to work always get a lot of attention from PBN readers. The story naming 69 honorees in the 2022 Best Places to Work Awards program was the sixth-most read of the year.
  • Initial plans for Rhode Island’s first food hall were approved by the Capital Center Commission. The $23.5 million project is led by Marsella Development Corp., which is planning to redevelop the lower level of 1 Union Station into a 30,000-square-foot food hall featuring a variety of restaurants and vendors. “This marks a major investment in the center of the city,” said Christopher J. Marsella, president of the Marsella Development Corp. “We’ve seen this is as an opportunity to breathe new life into the historic complex.”
  • More leadership changes made headlines in 2022, when Dr. Timothy J. Babineau announced he was resigning as the CEO and president of Lifespan Corp. after a decade in the role. Arthur Sampson had been serving in the role on an interim basis since Babineau’s departure in May and Lifespan later named John Fernandez, president of Mass Eye and Ear and Mass General Brigham Integrated Care, as its next leader starting in January.

May:

BREEZE AIRWAYS CEO and founder David Neelman (left) and R.I. Airport Corp. President and CEO Iftikhar Ahmad (right) detailed plans to house a permanent base of operations for the budget airline out of Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. PBN PHOTO/NANCY LAVIN

Breeze Airways announced plans to expand its presence in Rhode Island with a $160 million investment in a permanent base at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport, featuring overnight aircraft storage, local crews and routes to up to 20 destination cities. David Neeleman, Breeze Airways founder and CEO, said “this airport is tailor-made for Breeze.” See the story, the 10th-most read of 2022, here.

More popular stories:

  • News of the closure of the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art in Providence grabbed readers’ attention in May. The local museum announced its closure after 12 years of operations and five years at its Westminster Street location.
  • Neil D. Steinberg announced his plans to retire as Rhode Island Foundation’s CEO and president on May 1, 2023, after leading the century-plus-old organization for 14 years. Steinberg, 68, told PBN that he started taking stock of his time leading the foundation, and a potential transition for both himself and the foundation. “It was a good time to make the transition,” Steinberg said. “The foundation is on good footing. For me, it’s a good time to take a step back and explore some other things.”

June:

PBN FILE PHOTO/DAVE HANSEN

Bally’s Corp. sold the properties and buildings of its two Rhode Island casinos, Twin River Casino in Lincoln and Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel in Tiverton to Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. for $1 billion. With the sale, the Rhode-Island based gaming company will lease back both properties and continue to own, control and manage all the gaming operations of the facilities. Read the story here.

More popular stories:

  • June marked Providence Business News’ 18th annual 40 Under Forty Award program, which recognized 40 young professionals for their career success and involvement with their communities. Among the winners chosen for the 2022 program are those who work in the nonprofit, education, pharmaceutical, architecture, retail, construction, manufacturing, finance, government, entertainment and health care sectors. The story was the second-most read in 2022.
  • With the first half of 2022 marked by a chain of retirements and resignations of top executive leaders, some were left wondering what that meant for Rhode Island’s industries. In one of the most-read articles of the month, some leaders weighed in on the impact of this mass exodus.

July:

Gov. Daniel J. McKee. (AP FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE)

Christopher Farrell, a senior adviser to Gov. Daniel J. McKee, was arrested and faced felony unlawful trespass and unlawful mischief charges in Vermont following his arrest July 16. McKee is the former mayor of Cumberland, Farrell’s hometown, and served as his mentor when he was mayor.

More popular stories:

  • PBN selected honorees for its fourth Leaders and Achievers Awards program in July, which recognized 21 individuals for their leadership, achievements, longstanding commitment to the business community, community service and mentoring efforts. Among the industries the honorees represent are the health care, nonprofit, financial services, public relations, legal, gaming and manufacturing sectors.
  • Care New England, Rhode Island’s second largest health system, voted to remain independent and decided to turn down all offers to either merge or be acquired by another hospital group, at least for the immediate future. This came as a surprise to many, considering Care New England’s numerous efforts to find a partner amid its financial struggles in recent years.

August:

CVS HEALTH CORP. employee Diana Balavender works out on a treadmill at one of the company’s on-site fitness centers. COURTESY CVS HEALTH CORP.

CVS Health Corp. was recognized as one of Providence Business News’ Healthiest Employers for 2022, because of its efforts to maintain a healthy workplace for its employees. CVS emphasizes its employees’ mental and physical well-being, offering insurance coverage, administering vaccines, encouraging fitness, and supporting employees during stressful times.

“As a purpose-driven company, we know that bringing our heart to every moment of your health begins with prioritizing health and well-being for our 300,000 employees,” said CVS Chief People Officer Laurie Havanec. “We are building an employee culture, where taking care of mental and physical [health] is part of the way we work every day.” The story was the third-most read in 2022. Read it here.

More popular stories:

  • Rhode Island is standing out from other states for defying national trends that saw colleges and universities facing a decline in enrollments. While national enrollment dropped by 20% over the last two years, most Rhode Island-based colleges anticipate increased enrollments from the previous academic year, with some seeing record-setting first-year attendance.
  • Trader Joe’s confirmed the arrival of its new location in Providence over the summer, to the joy of many residents who have been waiting for the popular store to land in the city.

September:

COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION

In September, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission selected the developer for a project that will develop vacant riverfront land with corporate office headquarters and mixed-income apartments in September’s most-read article. The commission considered two proposals and ultimately selected the project by D+P Real Estate Inc., which was the best fit, according to the commission.

“Workforce housing is something the city desperately needs,” said commission member Michael McNally. “Corporate headquarters is also something the city needs. And in the end, it really came down to the accelerated schedule.” Read the story here.

More popular stories:

  • A plan to turn the former Providence Journal building into a hotel was scrapped as the developer announced plans to turn it into an apartment complex with retail and coworking space. Jim Abdo, the Washington, D.C., developer of what was the “Hotel Hive” project, is asking the city for a new tax deal for the new project, a change he made reportedly due to market demand.
  • Rubius Therapeutics, the Cambridge-based biotechnology company, announced its plans to lay off 75% of its workforce, including about 70 of its 101 employees in Rhode Island. The company, which reported a $44.2 million loss for Q2 in August and a $96.7 million net loss for the first half of 2022, is considering the sale of its Smithfield location and was set to lay off about 160 employees across its Smithfield and Cambridge locations.
  • State regulators approved new winter electric rates, allowing Rhode Island Energy to charge higher rates starting Oct. 1. The choice drew concern and criticism from community advocates.

October:

COURTESY ARUP GROUP

The only proposal submitted in response to the city’s request for a food and drink pavilion and outdoor space in Kennedy Plaza came from Boston architecture firm Merge Architects Inc. Merge’s $7.2 million proposal features St. Gall Rotisserie, a fast-casual rotisserie chicken restaurant from the owners of Dune Brothers LLC, and includes a 4,000-square-foot building to house the restaurant and bathrooms and accompanying outdoor and event space. The city offered up to $8.2 million to build the pavilion, coupled with outdoor seating and event space. Read the story here.

More popular stories:

  • The owners and operators of the Stoneacre Hospitality Group are trying to transform the commercial property at 144-150 Thames St. into a mixed-use development, including a music museum, theater, retail space and nine residential units.
  • The Middletown Zoning Board of Review approved a special-use permit for Atlantic Beach Suites II LLC to construct a 23-unit four-story hotel on Wave Avenue, on the border between Newport and Middletown.

November:

COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE

PBN reported in November that Rhode Island College was planning to cut some of its programs due to low enrollment. The college’s interim president, Jack Warner, said that five undergraduate and two graduate majors, along with 21 concentrations or certificate programs, had been eliminated. An additional 17 majors and 28 concentrations were being considered for elimination, according to Warner. Read the story here.

But a few days later, following a backlash from some faculty unaware of the cuts, Warner said that the seven programs had only been “identified for elimination” and that “final decisions have not yet been made,” assuring that faculty committees would be able to weigh in on the final decisions.

More popular stories:

  • The Providence Board of Contract and Supply rejected the proposal for the food and drink pavilion in Kennedy Plaza by Merge Architects Inc., because of a missing legal document. The $7.2 million project featured several well-known Rhode Island businesses as project partners and included a fast-casual rotisserie chicken restaurant from the owners of Dune Brothers LLC.
  • Hope & Main, Rhode Island’s prominent food business incubator, announced it will open a new Downtown Makers Marketplace at 100 Westminster St. in 2023. The organization is also planning to build kitchen space for shared-use and for it Hope & Main graduates.
  • The Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame announced the induction of 10 individuals who flew during various wars for the military in November.

December:

The year isn’t finished yet, but the most-read story of the month so far is developer Joseph R. Paolino Jr.’s announcement he’ll now consider selling the former St. Joseph Hospital property in Providence after education leaders nixed his plan to donate it to the city.

Also getting lots of attention from PBN readers, nationwide job cuts by Gannett Co. that included The Providence Journal’s top editor, David Ng, and Providence Mayor-elect Brett Smiley’s moves to begin filling out his administration.

(PBN Special Projects Editor James Bessette contributed to this report.)

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