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The I-195 land: Remember Capital Center?

In the past week, various errands have required me to drive around the area where land was freed up after the relocation of I-195. Now, as a life-long Rhode Islander, I’ve been there numerous times, yet I can’t help but look at it differently.

The first thing that strikes me is the amount of land available. Not just the I-195 land, but also the parcels located within a few hundred yards. Another is the presence of low-density buildings. When I see an area with lots of empty parcels and one or two story buildings, my impression is that the demand for land isn’t strong. Think about this: If you owned a parcel of land across from New York’s Central Park, would you erect a two story building? 50 would be more like it.

I’m not sure why so many people feel that the I-195 land has the potential to be an engine that can drive the local economy. It reminds me of the movie “Field of Dreams,” where Kevin Costner’s character kept hearing the words, “if you build it, they will come.” It makes me wonder if some of our politicians are also hearing voices, because their vision for the location seems crazy.

Many officials have talked about having biotech companies, or those with a medical focus locate on the land. That sounds nice, but seems unlikely. You can give the area a cutesy name like “The Knowledge District,” but realistically, that’s not going to fool people. Before the branding blitz began, the area was know as “The Jewelry District.” Do you know why? Because there were actually jewelry businesses there! For now, maybe we can call it the empty lot district!

If you’re looking for some precedent on the glacial pace of development with such districts, look no further than the Capital Center District. Remember that? The idea was conceived in the late 1970’s, and more than 35 years later, vacant parcels remain. It’s also worth noting that several of the buildings in the district only came to fruition after the promise of state and/or city tax breaks.

Isn’t it funny how the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox want to build on the I-195 land, but reportedly, only if it is free and comes with taxpayer assistance? My feeling is that they won’t be the only potential developers to approach the city and state with their hand out.

The proper way to handle the sale of the I-195 land would have been to put the parcels on the market and hopefully sell them for the appraised value. Of course, that couldn’t be allowed, since allowing the free market to determine the highest and best use for the land would interfere with the puppet masters’ ability to pull strings at will.



This post first appeared on RI Republican | Limited Government, Individual Lib, please read the originial post: here

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The I-195 land: Remember Capital Center?

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