Warren wants financials for Gateway project

Town's partner said plan is coming together, predicts success


Town officials have given their preferred development partner for the so-called Warren Gateway site 90 days to show that he has the private funding necessary to move ahead with the leasing and redevelopment of the old National Grid site in North Warren.

The Warren Town Council met in closed session last month to discuss progress with Giovanni Cicione, the Barrington attorney and developer who Warren selected last May as its preferred partner to redevelop and lease the site, after Warren Town Planner Bob Rulli said it had become clear that funding on Mr. Cicione's end might be an issue. Under the terms of a memo of understanding (MOU) Mr. Cicione signed with the town in May 2020, he had one year to "show us where he was in terms of the project," Mr. Rulli, the town's point person on the project, said Wednesday.

"We haven't seen solid evidence that there's funding in place," Mr. Rulli said. The MOU "gives us the authorization to put (Mr. Ciccione) on notice."
Warren purchased the property from National Grid for $450,000 in the fall of 2019. Soon after, officials solicited proposals from would-be developers and selected Mr. Cicione after rejecting another presented by the Tourister mill's developers. The plan is to renovate and build an addition to the only building currently on the site, the small brick warehouse next to Route 114. A second, larger building would be built on the footprint of an existing foundation, and a third building is possible. A public riverwalk along the water would connect to the riverwalk already built by the developers of the American Tourister property, and benches, a terrace, public restrooms and other public amenities are included.

Mr. Rulli said the uncertainty of financing on Mr. Cicione's end comes as Warren looks toward several different funding sources to help get the project underway. Though any eventual developer would need to contribute private funds, there would also be a town financing component and the town has invested $550,000 in the property so far. Mr. Rulli said the town is looking at sources, including tax increment funding, which considers and would utilize future local tax revenue from the improved site as a basis for financing.

Crucial in all those possibilities is establishing the developer's solid financial footing, Mr. Rulli said.

"The missing piece was (Mr. Cicione) getting his lender involved in the process," Mr. Rulli said. "That's what we need to have happen. If he can't do it, we want to know that sooner rather than later."

Mr. Rulli said that if funding can't be confirmed within the 90-day period, Warren has the right under the MOU to look elsewhere for a potential partner. And with Covid restrictions easing, developers "are coming out of the woodwork" and several have approached the town, Mr. Rulli said.

"We're just trying to light a fire."

Cicione: We're set to go

On Thursday, Mr. Cicione said he understands the town's position, but predicts that he will be able to deliver the financials within the 90-day window.

"We're ready to move forward," he said. "We're in great shape."

He said that the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic slowed down things on his end, as while he and his partners looked for and found tenants for the site, he didn't want to press any of them for commitments knowing it was possible that committing on opening during the pandemic might have made it difficult. Still, things have progressed to the point where he is confident on the future:

"It's a lot of moving parts to assemble, but we seem to be in the last phase of that."

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