Raimondo Administration Refuses to Answer Questions About Wexford Deal and Brown’s Rent
Thursday, December 15, 2016
A simple question by GoLocal posed on Monday, “What is Brown paying per square foot in rent at Wexford?” has sparked a case of not-my-job, non-responsive emails, and "call those guys" from a range of state and contract public relation staffers.
Governor Gina Raimondo’s office kicked the inquiry to Commerce RI to answer the question; Commerce said it was the 195 Commission's domain; the 195 Commission would not answer the question, and Wexford had said they would not divulge the information.
Wexford President Jim Berens had told GoLocal that while he knows the rents that Wexford will be getting from Brown and CIC, that he was not going to share them.
“They’re not public information,” said Berens. He and his company are receiving tens of millions of dollars to subsidize his project.
The new Wexford project was trumpeted by a four-page press release from the state and three-pages of attachments distributed on Monday, but failed to provide any specific fiscal information on the deal between Rhode Island taxpayers, Wexford, and the two tenants.
On Tuesday, Commerce RI sent out a mass email promoting that the project would create "1,000 jobs over the next 20 years" — or 50 jobs a year.
With Rhode Island investing $32 million for a potential of 50 new jobs per year — the cost of job creation is costly.
In addition, a separate press release from Brown University stated, “Should the project proceed as planned, Brown would lease 50,000 square feet of space for a period of 15 years for its School of Professional Studies.”
Are Rhode Island Taxpayers Subsidizing Brown University? Statements from Brown and Commerce Nearly Identical
On Wednesday, both Commerce and Brown continued to refuse to disclose the rent being paid and each issued separate and yet remarkably similar comments to GoLocal.
“Brown’s total investment in this project including lease payments, capital improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment will be in excess of $35M. Our understanding is that this lease is in the market rate range for a transaction involving this lease term and tenant credit rating,” said Matt Sheaff of Commerce RI.
According to CBRE, the leading commercial real estate firm in Rhode Island, the vacancy rate in the downtown business district ranges from 25% to more than 40%. In addition, the "average asking rent rate" is in the low to mid $20 per square foot range.
SLIDES: Raimondo Staff Salaries
Related Slideshow: 2016 Raimondo’s Staff Salaries
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