By: Nancy Lavin
PAWTUCKET – The R.I. Commerce Corp. Investment Committee has thrown its support behind public financing for the mixed-use Tidewater Landing project proposed for downtown Pawtucket.
Committee members voted on Thursday to recommend up to $46.2 million in public spending for the project by way of both tax-increment financing and tax credits through the Rebuild Rhode Island program. The 2-0 vote, with committee member Bernard Buonanno absent, specifically calls for a $36.2 million bond to be split between the city of Pawtucket and the state in accordance with tax-increment financing legislation approved by the R.I. General Assembly in 2019. Up to $10 million more in direct tax credits as well as sales tax exemptions for project development costs was also recommended using the state’s Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit program.
Committee members Vanessa Toledo-Vickers and Michael McNally both lauded the project as an economic catalyst that will revitalize a long-underused portion of Pawtucket’s riverfront.
McNally also pointed out that although the committee is recommending use of public financing for a portion of the estimated $284 million project cost – the remainder will be financed through private investment – analysis projecting the project will be “revenue positive” means the project will have zero cost to state taxpayers long-term.
“That the revenue coming in is more than generated through super TIF… gives us comfort,” agreed Jesse Saglio, Commerce Corp. president.
Saglio and R.I. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor also sought to reassure McNally’s concerns that the project may end up costing more than current projections. The cost estimates, which reflect two years of analysis, are more accurate than many projects the state considers for similar incentives, Saglio said.
The state is also not on the hook to pay for any cost overruns, Pryor said.
Per the terms of the tax-increment financing agreement, the $36.2 million in public bonds will be used to pay for public infrastructure in the project, such as the 750-space parking garage, “acres” of public space including pedestrian river walks connecting either side of the Seekonk River, and utility expansion related to the development, Saglio said.
The hallmark 8,000 to 10,000-seat soccer stadium will be paid for with private financing.
The project also calls for a mix of retail, residential and office space, as well as a hotel, conference and event center, although the hotel and event center construction have been pushed back to a second phase slated to start in 2025, according to master plans submitted to the city.
Current project costs and state financing do not include this second phase, Pryor said.
Office space has also been significantly reduced from the original proposal due to the pandemic’s impact on the market, with estimates shared at the meeting calling for 60,000 square feet which will include space for a United Soccer League team operations, Saglio said.
Exactly how much of the $240 million in private investment developer Fortuitous Partners has secured so far is not clear. Principal Brett Johnson did not return inquiries for comment.
Pryor said that the state financing was “essential” in order for the project to proceed to the market, including plans to start construction of the soccer stadium this fall.
The full R.I. Commerce Corp. board of directors will consider the committee’s recommendation in a meeting on Friday.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.