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195 Bidder Carpionato Failed to Redevelop Providence Fruit Market

Monday, May 26, 2014

 

The former Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse on Harris Avenue, which was demolished in 2008 -- and undeveloped since.

The Carpionato Group, who recently submitted a proposal to the 195 Commission to develop the former highway land, has to date not developed a previous acquisition of prime Providence real estate -- the former historic Fruit and Produce Warehouse.  

Following its purchase of the warehouse from the state -- and controversial demolition of the historic property in 2008 -- Carpionato, the Johnston-based commercial real estate firm, had presented plans to turn the former fruit market into a mixed used office, retail and hotel development, which have not materialized.  The city granted Carpionato preliminary approval for a surface parking lot at the location in 2013. 

"It was then my belief and seems now to be confirmed, that Carpionato always intended to create a parking lot on that site and nothing more," said real estate agent Erik Bright, who is the Director of PCIS (Providence Creative Industrial Space) and was active in opposing the demolition of the historic Harris Avenue building.  

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which had acquired the Fruit and Produce building in 1998 for $14 million, sold the property to Carpionato in 2005 for $4.3 million with the understanding the property would be rehabilitated. 

However, in 2010, the Federal Highway Administration demanded from Rhode island repayment of over $4 million of the $14 million in federal money spent on the purchase, citing the failure in attaining "fair and equitable compensation" for the sale of the property.  According to news reports, the state agreed to pay Carpionato $600,000 last summer to buy back a portion of the land for transportation and Amtrak related purposes. 

Acquisition -- and Demolition -- of Historic Property

A rendering of Carpionato's original plans to develop the former Fruit and Warehouse property behind the Providence Place Mall.

At the time of Carpionato's purchase of the Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse, which was built in 1929 by Jenks & Ballou, the property had recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"From 1929 to its closing in 1998, the Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse Company Building served as the state's most important distribution center for Rhode Island-grown and imported fresh fruits and vegetables," wrote Frederick Williamson, the state's historic preservation officer in the 2005 application.  "Current plans (2004) call for a rehabilitation of the building and conversion to mixed residential and commercial use."

Bright, however, said that he believed that was never the intent of the developer. 

"Carpionato purchased the Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse Building from the Department of Transportation under the guise of a proposal to renovate the historic building into a "Quincy market style" retail venue using historic tax credits. The building was listed on the National Register and the Providence Industrial Commercial Buildings District. (ICBD). As such, it gained the protection of the Historic District Commission (HDC)," said Bright. 

Bright continued, "Subsequently and conveniently, the Department of Inspections and Standards issued a demolition permit on the basis of public safety due to what they perceived as a "fire hazard" to this structure which allowed the owner to circumvent the HDC for permission to demolish the building. Besides the fact that the structure was built entirely of concrete and therefore fire retardant by the laws of nature, neither did the city enforce or the owner offer to board up the building in order to mitigate the issues of "public safety". Instead, Carpionato immediately proceeded down the far more costly process of demolishing the building. This was done under another guise of a "hotel" that was going to be built in its place."

Looking Ahead

Roadwork around the I-195 development.

"The tragedy of the situation is not only did Providence lose the last of its historic landscape of cold storage buildings that used to define the center lifeline of the City, it also lost out to a far better redevelopment plan by Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse. Bill Struever, one of the principals of Struever Bros. used to work at the Fruit & Produce Warehouse while he attended Brown University. He understood the historic significance of the site and what it meant for the City," said Bright. 

"If there is any silver lining in this story, it is my hope that the City of Providence can come up with a strategy to prevent the circumnavigation of the HDC when it comes to the demolition of historic buildings. Owners of historic properties should be required to secure their buildings in the face of public safety," said Bright.  "As a practical matter, that is a far cheaper alternative than demolishing a building."

As for status of proposals the 195 lands, which includes the Carpionato mixed-used bid, the I-195 Redevelopment Commission released the following statement on May 20.

"The I-­195 Redevelopment Commission has received several proposals for development of The LINK. The proposals range from a sliver of land to a combination of parcels and include concepts for residential, including hospitality, and for commercial, recreational and retail. The proposals reflect an equal level of interest in the parcels on the East and the West side of the Providence River.

We are pleased by the response, which indicates recognition for the great potential of the land and the opportunity it presents for economic development and job creation in Rhode Island.

The Commission began preliminary discussion of the proposals at its meeting on May 19, 2014. The Commission will review the merits of each proposal and begin to prioritize the timing for moving proposals forward."

 

Related Slideshow: I-195 Redevelopment: Key Players

Below are the key players in the redevelopment of the former Interstate 195 land. Listed are the seven members of the special state-appointed commission overseeing the redevelopment, as well as the state and local officials who have backed the effort. In addition to top city and state leaders, nonprofits like Brown University and Johnson and Wales are also expected to have a hand in the redevelopment. (Note: bios of commission members are from the Governor’s office.)

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Governor Lincoln Chafee

In 2011, Chafee signed into law a bill that established the process for the redevelopment of the Interstate 195 land. Chafee also appointed all members of the seven-member commission, with recommendations from Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and House Speaker Gordon Fox. Historically, the Governor’s support has been critical to the success of major development projects. Former Governor Bruce Sundlun spearheaded the construction of the new terminal at T.F. Green Airport and the support of both Sundlun and his successor Lincoln Almond was necessary in order for the Providence Place Mall development to get off the ground.

“The development of the 195 land in the heart of Providence has made tremendous progress specifically the work to prepare the land for development. All of the proper infrastructure is being put in place and has been aggressively pursued through state, city, federal and private partnerships.  The permitting occurred because of  quick work by DEM, RIDOT, DOA, NBC, CRMC and other government agencies and contributed to the fast pace in which we made the land pad ready,” Chafee told GoLocalProv this week.  

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Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed

The Senate, under the leadership of President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, confirmed Chafee’s nominees to the I-195 commission in October 2011. The commission began meeting immediately.

Paiva Weed, a Newport Democrat, has worked with Fox on a number of economic initiatives as well. “Economic development has been a Senate priority throughout the session. Working together with our partners in the House, the administration, and the private and nonprofit sectors, we have reshaped our approach to economic development in the state. This effort improves transparency and accountability, while focusing on the strategic economic and workforce development which is so essential to job growth in Rhode Island,” said Paiva Weed said last July, after the General Assembly overhauled the EDC. 

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Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio

Ruggerio, a Providence Democrat is widely regarded as one of the chief champions of the I-195 redevelopment legislation in the General Assembly. “The availability of this reclaimed land presents an exciting opportunity to attract new, high-quality jobs and bolster the economy of the city and the state,” said Leader Ruggerio. “This redevelopment district is a key advantage for our state. It bodes well for our ambitious goals that this collection of exceptional individuals will guide the development of this vital district,” Ruggerio said in October 2011, after the Senate confirmed the members of the commission. In a statement to GoLocalProv this week, he expressed confidence that the work was moving forward on the redevelopment project. 

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Providence Mayor Angel Taveras

As with the Governor, the support of the Mayor is critical to the success of a major redevelopment initiative. At least three members of the commission were Taveras’ picks, although Chafee made the final nominations to the Senate. The City of Providence remains an important player in the redevelopment process, approving a major re-zoning of the area in 2012 that grants flexibility to future development. As Mayor, Taveras also proposed—and successfully passed—a commercial tax property tax freeze. Taveras announced his run for Governor last October, ensuring that a new mayor will oversee the development of the former Interstate 195 land. 

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Colin P. Kane, I-195 Commission Chairman

Colin Kane is Principal of Peregrine Group LLC. Kane is Peregrine’s lead partner for project transactional activities, including structured workouts, payment settlements, deal origination, project planning, asset acquisition and sales, leasing, financial analysis, workout analysis, and debt/equity capitalization.

Prior to helping found Peregrine in 2001, Kane worked as a Development Manager for Gilbane Properties. Kane has broad experience in real estate development, including successful projects in Rhode Island, North Carolina, California, Maine, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida over the past 12 years. Projects include mixed-use campuses, historic rehabilitations, multi-family housing, hospitality venues, planned residential communities, large-scale corporate and institutional build-to-suits (including medical facilities), and brownfield redevelopment.

Kane is a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm, a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA), Georgetown University (MA), and the US Naval Academy (BS, with distinction), and serves on the Executive Committee of the RI Builder's Association. He is a resident of Wickford. (Nominated by Chafee.)

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Barrett Bready, M.D. I-195 Commission Member

Barrett Bready, M.D., is President and CEO of NABsys, Inc., a start-up and an advanced DNA sequencing technology company located in the heart of the Knowledge District. Bready has headed NABsys since 2005, and has led the company’s acquisition of GeneSpectrum as well as the execution of its licensing deal with Brown University.

Bready has been named one of the top “30 under 30” in New England by Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology and one of 25 “movers and shakers” in the State of Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly.

Bready teaches “Biotechnology Management” at Brown, where he holds the position of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biotechnology. He received his M.D. from Brown Medical School and his Sc.B. in Physics from Brown. He co-chairs BioGroup, Rhode Island’s biotechnology industry organization, serves on the Board of Directors of the Brown Medical Alumni Association, and is a Trustee of the Providence Preservation Society and WaterFire. (Nominated by Chafee.)

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Barbara A. Hunger, I-195 Commission Member

Barbara Hunger has been a registered nurse in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Women and Infants Hospital for 25 years. Prior to joining Women and Infants, Hunger worked as a nurse in hospitals throughout New England. She earned a BS from Southern Connecticut State University. Her civic involvement includes volunteerism with CityArts, Elmwood Neighborhood Housing, Community Music Works, and the Steel Yard. Hunger has been a resident of and homeowner in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood for 25 years and raised two children who attended Providence Public Schools. (Recommended by Taveras.)

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Diana L. Johnson, I-195 Commission Member

Diana Johnson is a self-employed art consultant. She served as Director of Brown University’s David Winton Bell Gallery and as Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Chief Curator, and Acting Director of the RISD Museum of Art.

Johnson also has served as Senior Vice President and City Executive with the Private Clients Group at Fleet National Bank-Bank of America, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager with the Providence Group Investment Advisory Company, and Vice President with the Trust and Investment Division of Fleet National Bank.

Johnson has served on the Boards of the RI Committee for the Humanities, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, and Trinity Repertory Company, and as Board Chairman of the RI State Council on the Arts, Travelers Aid Society of RI, and Planned Parenthood of RI. She received a BA in Government from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) and an MA in Art History from Brown. She is a resident of Providence. (Nominated by Governor Chafee.)

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John M. Kelly, I-195 Commission Member

John Kelly has been the President and CEO of Meeting Street School for the last 14 years. Meeting Street serves over 3,000 Rhode Island children and families each year. During his tenure, Kelly has overseen the development of Meeting Street’s $25 million South Providence campus which resulted in over 180 jobs moving to South Providence (with an additional 40 jobs added since its relocation).

An attorney by training, Kelly previously focused his law practice in corporate and real estate law as a partner at Tillinghast, Collins & Graham. Kelly subsequently held a leadership position in a non-profit organization, The Coalition for Community Development, which was created to revitalize downtown Providence.

Kelly has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Genesis Center and the Providence Revolving Fund and has chaired four city boards and commissions: the Port Commission, the Zoning Board of Review, Adhoc Permitting Review and the Salary Review Commission. As Chair of the Adhoc Permitting Review group, he was tasked with streamlining Providence’s permitting process. To date, the city has implemented electronic plan review, concurrent plan review and launched of an expedited review process. He is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and earned a law degree from Boston College. Kelly is a resident of the city’s south side. (Recommended by Taveras and Fox.)

Photo: Flickr/spablab

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Mark T. Ryan, I-195 Commission Member

Mark Ryan is a principal at Moses and Afonso, Ltd., where he concentrates his practice in the areas of corporate and business law. Ryan has extensive business and business law experience.

Prior to joining Moses and Alfonso, he was with the Providence Journal Company for nearly 25 years, where he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Senior Vice President – Legal and Administration, and Vice President – Legal and Administration. During his time at the Journal, Ryan was also responsible for litigation management, environmental issues and labor and employment matters country wide, and oversaw digital operations.

Ryan is a Director and Member of the Nominating and Legislative Committees of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, First Vice Chairman and Trustee of the Providence Performing Arts Center, a Member of the Rhode Island Commodores, and a Member of the Rhode Island Bar Association. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and New England School of Law. (Recommended by Taveras.)

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Michael S. Van Leesten, I-195 Commission Member

Michael Van Leesten is CEO of OIC of Rhode Island, a non-profit that provides training, employment, and minority business development services. He also heads Van Leesten Group, LLC, a community development consulting firm.

Van Leesten has over 40 years of community and business development experience, including: Executive Director of the Providence Planning and Development Department, Director of Fleet National Bank, Chairman of the RI Home Mortgage & Finance Corporation, public affairs management with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and, currently, Chairman of the Providence Black Repertory Company. He has directly managed and developed various types of commercial and residential real estate projects in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Van Leesten is a member of the RI Heritage Hall of Fame. A graduate of Rhode Island College with a degree in education, he has also completed the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Management program and did course work in Community Planning at the University of Rhode Island. (Nominated by Chafee.)

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Jan Brodie, Executive Director, I-195 Commission

Hired in May 2013, Jan Brodie serves as the executive director for the I-195 commission—one of just two staff positions on the commission. Brodie was hired after a six-month search in which over 200 candidates for the job were reviewed.

Prior to her appointment, Brodie has served as the Northeast Regional Director of The Community Builders, a real-estate development organization in Boston, Massachusetts. Previously, she was the Vice President of the Armory Revival Company in Providence.

Brodie received her MBA from The Wharton School, her masters in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania GSFA and her bachelors of arts degree from Williams College.

Photo: Flickr/Dougtone

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James S. Bennett, Providence Economic Development Director

As its Director of Economic Development, Bennett is the city’s point person for any economic development effort in Providence. Bennett was appointed by Taveras in August 2011, months before the commission was established. According to his official city bio, “In this position, Mr. Bennett oversees all economic development initiatives and leads efforts to support existing businesses, attract new businesses and create jobs in Rhode Island's capital city.”

Bennett previously was the chairman of the Rhode Island Convention Center from 1995 to 2001. He was reappointed as chairman in June 2011 by Chafee. “His leadership of the board has been credited with the Convention Center's successful efforts to market Providence as a national convention destination and increase convention business and tourism in the capital city,” his city bio states. Bennett has also launched three startup companies and run several large companies. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University. 

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Brown University 

It’s hard to imagine Brown University—which opened its new medical school in the Jewelry District three years ago and is the sixth largest employer in the city—not playing a role in the redevelopment of the former Interstate 195 land. Brown is a critical partner in local and state officials’ vision for a new “Knowledge District” in Providence. In recent years, President Ruth Simmons was the university’s chief liaison to the community. That role now falls to new President Christina Paxson, who has a background in economics. Brown has already expressed an interest in the I-195 land, but no formal proposal has been submitted to the commission. 

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Johnson and Wales University

Johnson and Wales is also deeply involved in the redevelopment of the I-195 land. In November 2012, the university purchased two parcels from the former highway area to expand its downtown campus. “This area is integral to the future economic development of our city and state, and I am very pleased our plans for these parcels of land will bring jobs and activity to the old Route I-195 corridor and serve as a catalyst for other private development to follow,” said JWU Chancellor John Bowen, according to remarks reported in the Providence Business News. Johnson and Wales has expressed interest in buying up more land from the I-195 commission. 

 
 

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