Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 03-27-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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8 PAWTUCKET MARCH 27-APRIL 2, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | PAWTUCKET EDITION Leaders have gotten some pushback from developers and potential developers, including Aurora Leigh and her Bond Street LLC, with this developer of two planned housing redevelop- ments near the future train station requesting to be grandfathered in if changes are made. Mercer said he would expect to get many similar requests in the future if leaders approve such a stipulation. Councilor Tim Rudd wasn't at that March 20 meeting, said Mercer, but he said it's clear that both Rudd and a third member of the subcommittee, Meghan Kallman, see this 10 percent requirement as an important issue, so it was going to come out of committee. Director of Planning Sue Mara said Monday that affordable housing has to be deed-restricted for 30 years, prohibiting changes. Residents have to be at 80 percent of the area median income to qualify to live in it, she said. Officials are planning a public hearing on the TOD zoning ordinance for April 10. Train station com- ing soon; council backs efforts Construction of the Pawtucket Central Falls Train Station in the middle of the Conant Thread District is being headed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. City officials anticipate that the project will begin in early summer of this year, with the initial phases already beginning. "The contractors for the train station have been out doing soil borings on the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency-owned lot which is intended to be the 'kiss-and- ride' lot, as well as other par- cels," said Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien. The commuter rail station is planned for completion in 2021. The City Council last week passed a trio of resolutions related to city economic development efforts, one sup- porting creation of a local TOD tax credit, one on a new state credit for oppor- tunity zones, and one back- ing a plan to retool House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's "Super TIF" downtown tax incremental financing plan used as part of a failed bid to build the Pawtucket Red Sox a new downtown stadium. All three of the proposals are tax credits and programs per- taining to state-level taxes. Conflicting views on mandate Kallman said she thinks it's critical that the city be forward-thinking about hous- ing, especially in the context of all the new development that's projected to take place and is already happening in the Conant Thread district. "The housing crisis is massive, across the coun- try. Pawtucket isn't the only city facing these chal- lenges. Other communities in the area, including East Providence and Lincoln, already have inclusionary zoning at 10 percent, and there are many ways for developers to meet that 10 percent mandate of afford- ability, if that's the route we decide to go," she said. Citing what she believes is a 20 percent mandate in Boston, she said Pawtucket has "a very low target," and it's appropriate for the city's needs. "There are other strategies to support housing equity, too, including expanding work with community devel- opment corporations, among others," she said. "My con- cern here is that we don't dis- place longtime and working class residents as we embrace much-needed development." The other aspect to consid- er is that, with a commuter rail station, Pawtucket may become part of the Boston metro area, she added, and will then face its housing market/pricing as a result. Mercer said the goal of the new ordinance for the TOD is to make it as uniform as possible for appropriate types of uses. Mercer said the council was happy to pass a resolu- tion last year encouraging incorporation of affordable housing, but said creating a mandate "would put a finan- cial hurdle in the way of eco- nomic development," even as officials are taking other steps to make way for develop- ment efforts. Gentrification, or the forc- ing out of lower-income resi- dents due to redevelopment, has been high on the radar for both Kallman and Rudd, he said. He "didn't want to put the kibosh" on their pro- posal entirely, but said if the 10 percent mandate comes to the floor as is, and not separated out from the rest of the zoning standards for the district, "there will very likely be an amendment made on the floor to strip that out." Rudd also emphasized that the 10 percent threshold is conservative compared to other cities, and is "a fair compromise." "The percentage is impor- tant to the current residents of the community to not only keep intact the cultural significance that exists, but will also ensure residents will not be priced out and dis- placed, causing the gentrifica- tion of that neighborhood," he said. "Developers still stand to make an astronomi- cal amount of money even with a 10 percent affordable minimum. This has taken place elsewhere and has not deterred development." Rudd said he feels there is a misconception on what affordable housing is. "We are not talking sub- sidized or free housing. We are speaking working class otherwise known as housing affordable for the middle class," he said. "These people work and contribute to the tax base. I think it's impor- tant to define what afford- able housing truly is because many do not know or delib- erately define it incorrectly to scare residents." Kallman noted that a new report from the Economic Progress Institute found that half of Rhode Island rent- ers pay more than one-third of their income on hous- ing, "which is financially completely unsustainable. Particularly in a place like Pawtucket where there are so many tenements." She said she has a friend who put in something like nine offers on a house before she could find one in the city meeting her budget and to HOUSING From Page One Get a sneak preview of new Conant Thread signs PAWTUCKET – New street signs designed to reflect Pawtucket and Central Falls as "the next great destination for busi- nesses and individuals," according to Director of Commerce Jeanne Boyle, are in the process of arriving. "With the coming of the new transit hub, and the streamlined process that is being made to make development possi- ble in this district, we are ready for new develop- ment, open for business, and committed to making this walkable district a bustling center of civic activity," she said. The transit hub, a cen- terpiece of the Conant Thread district, "will link our city neighborhoods by train, bus, pedestrian, cycling routes and other multi-modal opportuni- ties," she said. "It will provide easy access to desirable real estate with affordable development and rental costs. This is one of many opportuni- ties to continue to revi- talize Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley." The signs that the city is working on will contain the logo and will brand the district, said Boyle. Installation will happen at nearly every intersec- tion in the TOD District. More than 100 signs will be replaced as part of regular maintenance with more than 110 new street signs. A rendering of the CONANT THREAD redevelopment district at the Pawtucket/Central Falls line. Continues on next page

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