Stakeholders open to master plan for Sear and Shaws site

The three largest landholders in the largely underused areas north of Smithfield Avenue and west of North Main Street have agreed in principle to participate in a joint master planning process should one be developed. So have the city planning departments of both Providence and Pawtucket. After hearing about these conversations from North Main Street Project consultant Jonathan Harris at our October 7 meeting, City Councilman Kevin Jackson and State Representative Gordon Fox agreed to support SNA should it decide to undertake a planning project. The issue will be taken up on Oct 27 at the next SNA Board meeting and revisited at the next North Main Street workshop on Nov. 11.

Our consultant Jonathan Harris reported on his conversations with Steven Lewinstein, the lead partner in NMS Associates, which owns the empty former Sears, Anderson Little and Chips Bowlarama buildings along the northern end of the street, with Executive Director Dr. Kathleen Hittner and other executives at The Miriam Hospital, which owns the parking lot behind the NMS Associates properties and with Adam Ifshin, owner of Shaw’s Plaza Improvements, which lies behind and down the hill from the Miriam parking lot. Jonathan also talked with Thom Deller, Director of Providence Planning and Michael Cassidy, his counterpart in Pawtucket as well as Amy Rainone of Rhode Island Housing.

Thom Deller of Providence said the city’s preference would be to replace existing surface parking with parking structures and to encourage high-density residential development along with commercial to maximize tax revenues and economic benefits.

Mike Cassidy of Pawtucket stressed that Miriam Hospital needs to be a central player (Miriam is a core partner and one funder of the North Main Street Project), that a medical complex and food market would be positive developments. Cassidy would be open to a Joint Planning/Review Committee as suggested by Providence if that would help with this site.

Dr. Hittner suggested that Miriam would favor a secondary medical campus at the former Shaws site. Miriam currently is the major tenant in two privately owned medical office buildings at the southern end of the plaza, close to Smithfield Avenue. Their experience in the two buildings has been that when they occupy 60% to 70% of a building, the rest of the space quickly fills up with other medical providers. Miriam also would support a master plan effort. They are supportive of helping staff move to the neighborhood, but not willing to guarantee rents.

Adam Ifshin said that his company, DLC Management, (owner of Shaws Plaza through Shaws Plaza Improvements) is capable of large-scale commerical, office and residential development. He is willing to participate, but will not be legally bound by a master planning process.

Steven Lewenstein of Steven R. Lewinstein Associates, lead partner with the Procaccianti Group in NMS Associates, said that the preferred construction solution would be to recycle the 120,000 square foot former department store, because demolition would be very expensive and difficult due to structural effects on North Main Street itself. However, the current building footprint leaves only __ parking spaces, while a propspective occupant wants 400.  (The parking lot formerly attached to Sears was retained by Miriam Hospital when they transferred the building to NMS.)

Amy Rainone of RI Housing, which has supported multiple mixed-use planning projects around the state suggested that SNA could be eligible for $10,000 in matching funds for planning should it apply. RI Housing would want to see participation from neighborhood groups in Pawtucket and a willing partnership from other key stakeholders. She suggested a budget of about $40,000 for planning.

We agreed to bring this planning concept to the SNA board at the next meeting, Oct. 27. Amy Rainone will be our guest at the next North Main workshop on housing on Nov. 11, so we can continue to develop this idea at that meeting.

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One Response

  1. On Dec 2 the N Main St forum on what North Main St will be like after the oil starts to disappear will be held at 7PM at the Penalty Box, corner of 3rd and N Main.

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