Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan held her annual Christmas On The Parkway event on Sunday, December 9th. This event included seasonal treats, horse drawn sleigh rides and a special appearance by Santa Claus himself! Be sure to keep a lookout on our calendar and join us next year!
When a majority of the City Council came together to vote “Yes” for a zoning change that would allow a new $300-million development to go forward in our city, generating an estimated $4 million in annual tax revenues, it was an important sign that we understood the need to move Providence forward.
For too long, the city has been seen as fostering an anti-development culture. Instead of looking at economic development opportunities as a chance to get things done and generate vital revenue for Providence, some city officials appear to be more interested in imposing unreasonable demands on those who are willing to invest in the city. The fact is, we should be welcoming those who see promise in Providence and are willing to spend money to do business here.
It’s no secret that our city faces significant challenges, among them staggering pension liabilities that threaten to plunge us into possible bankruptcy. Many of the city’s schools are struggling and we received word this week that Rhode Island’s schools as a whole are underperforming, with a Dec. 2 Providence Journal editorial noting that “Rhode Island’s public education system is woefully bad” and that the situation “presents a direct threat to the state’s chances of rebuilding its economy.”
The disturbing results of the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment raised a serious alarm. We are lagging behind Massachusetts, because our neighbors to the north made a commitment to improving their schools as part of a broad approach to economic development and job growth. We can do the same, but the only way to get on the road to making that kind of meaningful, sustained commitment is to take advantage of significant opportunities when they present themselves. That is how we get on a path to making things better.
In this environment, rejecting a proposal like the Hope Point Tower is not just reckless and irresponsible — it does a disservice to our taxpayers. It ignores the need to get things moving in our city, to show some signs of progress with the I-195 redevelopment zone, an area that was created for the expressed purpose of generating new development and jobs. But it isn’t just about reshaping our city’s skyline … it’s about sending a message that Providence is serious about getting its economy on track and taking the bold action necessary to revitalize our city.
The Providence Journal implored Mayor Jorge Elorza not to stand in the way of this project. The speaker of the House and Senate president rightly called on him to act and reminded him that this was a chance to change the perception that the city was “mired in the same bureaucratic delays and barriers that have held it back in the past.” And the City Council gave him the chance to green-light this vital project and create a new sense of energy in Providence.
Unfortunately, the mayor missed an opportunity to lead. I hope my colleagues on the City Council will come together to recognize that our city deserves better. We need to take action now to change the culture and show that Providence can effectively promote and support economic development. We can do it as part of a comprehensive approach to building a strong community where businesses and individuals work in concert to help rebuild our schools, create affordable housing opportunities and make this a vibrant city that is a destination for those seeking a strong quality of life.
It starts with vision, the ability to see that a zoning change can represent a change in attitude, a shift in perspective, and a willingness to do things differently. By letting the Hope Point Tower go forward, we can finally begin to make good on the promise of the I-195 redevelopment zone, approving a signature project that will spark further development, while creating desperately-needed jobs and generating essential tax revenue.
*Originally published by The Providence Journal on December 4, 2018
Since last Friday, I have been inundated with calls, texts, and emails asking me where I stand on the issue of the Hope Point Tower. Since this development was proposed, I have remained neutral and steadfast in my request to find out more information on the project and what it truly means for the City of Providence, and more specifically, for my neighbors in Ward 11.
Since even before taking office, my interests and goals for my community have focused on equitable housing, and how the Council as the legislative body of Providence can reduce the tax burden for our citizens. Since this project first came before the Committee on Ordinances, I have been talking with stakeholders, community members, advocates, and those opposed to this project to gain a fuller picture of how a development of this magnitude would help or hurt the city I love.
It’s clear to me why many oppose this project, but it is less clear why and what the real, long-lasting benefits are for this City and my neighbors. I’ve read that I have little time to come to a conclusion on this matter, but I am working hard on behalf of my neighbors and all citizens of Providence to come to a decision that will be in our best interest.
Finally, as a former a tradeswoman (yes, I was a welder), I am in full support of our tradespeople and our unions. I know full well what this kind of project can mean for the men and women who work to build our City every day. However, I am thinking about and reflecting on the totality of this project.
To all those who have offered support, guidance, and advice, or shared insight, I am grateful. Governing should never be done in a vacuum, and I am very proud of how my colleagues on the City Council have engaged in spirited debate and discussion on this matter.
I am encouraged by the support shown for the Hope Point Tower project by my colleagues in the Rhode Island General Assembly, most notably Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello. I also believe that Mayor Jorge O. Elorza has been thoughtful in regards to this project and am hopeful that he will work with the developer, Jason Fane, to resolve any differences.
The Hope Point Tower represents a $300 million private investment in our City at a time when we face serious financial challenges from our pension liability and aging infrastructure. In addition to that private investment, the development will generate an estimated $4 million in tax revenue annually and will create 1,500 high-wage earning construction jobs over the next three years. This investment increases our tax base, and the economic impact of this project will be felt in all sectors of Providence.
By moving this project forward, Providence is poised to embark on one of the largest economic development plans since Providence Place Mall and the Renaissance Hotel. Like Hope Point Tower, these projects also faced criticism, and many said they could not be done. But with collaboration between the developers, city planners, and the City Council we were able to bring these projects to fruition and they are now part of the very fabric that makes our City unique and vibrant.
Over my 21-year career on the City Council, I am most proud of projects like the Hope Point Tower. Creating jobs, revitalizing neighborhoods, and making the City I love a great place to live and visit is a remarkable gift. During this time of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to have served, and I look forward to seeing Providence continue to grow.
—Terrence M. Hassett, Senior Deputy Majority Leader, Councilman Ward 12