EAST PROVIDENCE — Some clarity should be coming soon on how Marshall Properties LLC can go about its planned redevelopment of the former Metacomet Country Club parcel off Veterans Memorial …
EAST PROVIDENCE — Some clarity should be coming soon on how Marshall Properties LLC can go about its planned redevelopment of the former Metacomet Country Club parcel off Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The East Providence Waterfront Commission, which gained oversight of the proposal in the third quarter of 2022, is expected to take some decisive actions over the next several weeks.
The process of drafting design guidelines by the commission for the Metacomet property is well underway. It actually started when the City Council transferred governance to the commission back late last summer.
A meeting of the commission’s Design Review Committee subgroup, which has been studying the matter for several months, is expected to take place in early February, according to Waterfront Commission chairman Bill Fazioli.
Fazioli said that gathering, as always, will get proper notice and be open to the public. The subcommittee will formalize its concepts then make recommendations and present them to the full commission for consideration at its regular monthly meeting set for Thursday, Feb. 16, at City Hall.
To the consternation of some area residents, specifically the community group “Keep Metacomet Green” (KMG) that emerged around the time the previous parcel owners Metacomet Property Company LLC put the land up for sale in 2020 and of Marshall’s purchase of the 138-acre site later that year, the matter has steadily moved forward over the last 24-plus months now.
Marshall, which was once headquartered in city and still conducts considerable business in the area, bought the privately-held land for $7.6 million.
As well, despite the insistence and efforts of KMG, the last version of the City Council, its term ending in December 2022, declined to pursue what it deemed would be a costly eminent domain procedure. That council went so far as to have its own independent appraisal, aside from that done by the city, conducted on the property before opting not to go down the forced procurement route.
Of late and upon the matter being moved to the commission, KMG submitted a series of proposals for it to consider as it set up the parameters for Marshall to follow.
“We actually already have most of what they’ve discussed at meetings and in the materials they’ve submitted included in our guidelines. I can’t speak for the full commission, but I think every one of the members is in agreement with the spirit of what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Fazioli.
He continued, “We already have in our existing guidelines how the parkway is to be treated from when we went through the Kettle Point development (also on Veterans Parkway). Our traffic guidelines are consistent with how the parkway is supposed to be treated. Much of the language they have suggested already exists.
KMG is requesting the Waterfront Commission, among other things, attempt to limit increases in traffic both on Veterans Parkway and in the surrounding neighborhoods, keep the aesthetics, height and setbacks of any new structures built within the character of the community and install utilities underground. (See KMG's full list of proposals here.)
“Nothing in (the KMG) proposal is out of sync with our guidelines for the parkway They certainly have every right to do what they’ve done, to advocate for what they would like to see happen. But hopefully we’ll soon be able to present to the community a full set of design guidelines by our February meeting. It should bring more clarity to the situation.”
Once the design guidelines are codified, Marshall is soon expected to submit its initial concepts for how it will move forward on the buildable portion of the property with site work possibly starting sometime before the end of this calendar year.
The owners are conveying to the city nearly 10 acres of land in the northwest corner of the property along Fort Street and Lyon Avenue. The land would also serve as a buffer of some 240 to 290 feet in scope, between neighbors and the approximately 60 acre-development will take place, where the former back nine of the golf course was located.
The some 57 acres abutting the Watchemoket Cove would include a public nine-hole golf course, to once again serve as the home of the high school team like it did for decades prior to closing. That portion of the property is deed restricted and shall remained undeveloped “green” space in perpetuity.
Jeanne Boyle, a part of the Waterfront Commission since its charter in 2004 until her resignation from city government in 2017, has returned to the body in the stead of a newly-elected member of the City Council.
Boyle has been seated on the commission to replace former member Rick Lawson, who needed to step aside after voters chose him to be the new councilor from Ward 4 at the November 2022 election. One of Lawson’s first acts in office, as a matter of fact, was to submit Boyle’s name into nomination to take over his position. Boyle was formally welcomed back to the body at its January 19 forum.
“When I resigned from the Waterfront Commission I knew I wanted to put someone up who understands the importance of developing our waterfront in a way that opens it up for residents, but also increases our tax base and creates jobs,” Lawson said of Boyle. “Jeanne was such an obvious choice with her experience as EP's planning director and former member/chair of the commission and I am so grateful she decided to serve her city once again."
Boyle departed her position as East Providence’s Planning Department director to become the new director of commerce in Pawtucket in the summer of ’17. At the time she also held the title of Executive Director for the Waterfront Commission, which she took on inception in 2004. She stayed on in Pawtucket until retiring late in 2021. Boyle was at the forefront in landing such projects/businesses to East Providence such as Kettle Point, Tockwotton on the Waterfront, Rumford Center, igus, Eaton Aerospace and the Forbes Street solar farm.
“It’s wonderful to have Jeanne back,” said Fazioli. “She’s only going to be a great asset to the commission. She was there at the very beginning, when it was created. She knows all of the issues, how the commission functions. I can’t think of anyone around the state who is more qualified to serve on the commission.
Amoroso is added
Another new member of note on the Waterfront Commission is city resident and architect Steve Amoroso, who was appointed as one of the representatives on the body by the state late last year following the departure of another specialist in the field and charter member Luis Torrado.
Amoroso became familiar to many in recent years for his service on the new East Providence High School Building Committee. In early 2022, he ventured out onto his own, forming the city-based SJA Design. He had spent the previous 25 years as an associate with Vision 3 Architects.
Torrado, who was chair of the aforementioned Design Review Committee subgroup, likewise owns the eponymous firm, Torrado Architects. He, too, was one of the initial members of the commission, appointed in 2004. Donald Carcieri was the first of three governors total to submit his name for consideration. Lincoln Chafee and Gina Raimondo subsequently did the same.
Of Torrado and Amoroso, Fazioli said, "Luis was a great member and contributed a lot to our projects. His professional experience was highly appreciated. Steve also is an architect and we’re looking forward to working with him on the design guidelines. He’s a well respected architect and lives in East Providnece which is a very good asset to the commission."
Fazioli also mentioned the numerous residential developments around the city currently in the works or about to start, including the “Wampanoag Meadows” build with portions about to be on offer shortly and the “East Point” multi-faceted housing project just begun at the former Washburn Wire/Ocean State Steel plant in Rumford.
“It’s exciting to see those projects and the others around the city move ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing them move along here in the next few months and years,” Fazioli said. “I know some people have mixed feeling about the developments, but more housing is only going to be good for the city long term.”
Fazioli, who until late in 2022 doubled as the city’s Planning and Economic Development director, said there are many potential benefits of the expansion, which will only increase East Providence’s still rather small housing stock.
Fazioli explained as the majority one and two-bedroom apartment units come to market, it may offer the chance for some of the city’s older residents to downsize from their single-family properties and sell to the next generation of homeowners, who have limited options at the moment.
Editor's Note: Candy Seel, a member of KMG, submitted the following comment about this article:
“Mr. Rego, I read your article with interest. It is unclear whether you interviewed Mr. Fazioli directly or merely gleaned his quotes and comments from other sources. I know that you didn’t interview me or any other KMG Director. If you had, we would have explained to you—for your readers’ information—that, while general language in the 2003 East Providence Waterfront Special Development District Plan itself refers to protection of the Parkway, BOTH the Kettle Point and Veterans Memorial Subdistricts ALSO include specific language limiting development to the capacity of the Parkway as it stands now. We would also have told you that the Waterfront Commission’s draft guidelines did not mention traffic at all, nor the need to minimize the removal of mature shade trees, nor the need for adequate setbacks from the Parkway so that 3- to 5-story buildings would not have been built 70’ from the right-of-way. KMG’s proposed guidelines for the Metacomet Subdistrict do. We would also have told you that, were not for KMG’s advocacy, the amendment to the 2003 Plan establishing the Metacomet Subdistrict in the first place would have passed the City Council without mention of traffic on the Parkway, a precedent set when the 2003 Plan was amended for the other two Parkway Subdistricts. Yes, we do suffer from a case of consternation, especially when a supposed in-depth and impartial article in the local news source of record does not tell the whole story.”