Ward 11

Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris

Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris has been on the City Council since 2014, and currently serves as the Deputy Majority Leader. She serves as the Vice-Chairwoman of both the Committee on Urban Redevelopment, Renewal and Planning and the Committee on Public Works. She represents constituents in the Upper South Providence and West End neighborhoods.

 

READ HER FULL BIO HERE >

Ward 11: Upper South Providence & West End

This ward is defined by the large medical campus that is located just West of I-95 and south of downtown Providence. The Hasbro Children's Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital, and Rhode Island Hospital are located within this campus. Rhode Island Hospital is the state's primary trauma center, and the hospital has a close affiliation with the Brown University Medical School. This ward is also home to the central campus of The MET Community High School. The MET is a network of six small public high schools in Providence and Newport that put the emphasis on vocational training and experiential learning.

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City Council Supports Redevelopment of Historic Former “Projo” Building

This TSA is one of the first that will generate a guaranteed funding source for the City’s Affordable Housing Trust 

At last night’s City Council meeting a majority of the council voted in favor of granting the developer of the property located at 203 Westminster Street a 20-year Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) which will be the first since the Council passed the Affordable Housing Trust Fund – that requires the City’s Tax Assessor to deposit 10% of their annual tax contributions to the fund.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund was passed in July of 2019, and requires 10% of TSAs tax payments to go directly to a fund to help support affordable housing projects across the City. This TSA, by end of its terms, will have generated at least $500K for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund based on estimates provided by the Tax Assessor’s office.

Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) stated, “Our City is bustling with new hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Our skyline is rapidly changing. However, some of our most precious historic buildings need a little extra help to get them back online. This building, located directly across the street from City Hall, sticks out as a sore reminder that opportunities to redevelop our most endangered buildings don’t come around often. While there is definitely room for discussion regarding the role and scope of TSA’s, this development meets a specific criteria for me: the condition of the building necessitates it, it would help save one our most storied buildings, and it’d be making a significant contribution towards affordable housing efforts across our city over the course of the agreement.”

The developer of the property located at 203 Westminster Street and the adjacent property, formerly the Providence Journal Building and the former Kresge Department Store, will be turned into a hotel that would create 233 full-time construction jobs, and 154 full-time jobs after the building is completed. The property owner is currently paying over $136K in property taxes per year and by the end of the TSA they will be paying over $516K in property tax per year. Over the twenty years of the agreement, the development will have contributed an additional $3.6 million in tax revenue. This is in addition to sales tax, hotel occupancy tax, and income taxes that will be realized by the completion of this project.

“I have been on record that I am not in favor of 20-year TSAs,” stated City Council Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11). “I pushed to have the Council pass an ordinance that codified monies from our TSAs be directed to support our neighborhoods, and those that needed the support the most. When I see people without roofs over their heads, or living in fear of losing their home, or can’t afford to fix their homes because they are on a fixed income – how can I in good conscience support such projects? By adding this funding source for affordable housing, it begins to chip away at the hard work that we must accomplish to make equity a reality. This project will deposit an estimated $500K into a fund that will have a direct impact on our community’s and that is why I am standing in support of this project. This will have a direct impact on the residents we represent, and that is worthwhile.”

Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4) stated, “I have always stood on the side of Unions, and I still do. That said we must look at the bigger picture of economic development for our city and the funding that this project will provide for our Affordable Housing Trust which will have a direct impact on the most vulnerable members of our community. These buildings have stood abandoned and vacant for years. We have a developer that is willing to make a sizeable investment in our City and I believe that we need to support progress, not stand in opposition of it.”

The developers proposed TSA was continued indefinitely by the Committee on Finance, but with a majority of the Council’s support it was discharged from Committee and sent to the full Council for a vote.

“I look at the old ProJo building every day from my office and see its potential,” stated City Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6). “I believe in order for our City to continue the trajectory we are on we must embrace development, but with an eye on the greater good. We have multiple buildings in our city center that have been abandoned and are rapidly deteriorating and it is creating a negative narrative about our downtown. After so many of us have worked so hard to redevelop this district to become an economic engine and a great place to shop, eat, and live for our residents and visitors alike.”

Through the TSA the developer is also required to use 10% of the construction cost on women and minority owned businesses; they are required to make a good faith effort buy construction materials from Providence based businesses; they must develop a First Source Agreement with the Director of First Source Providence; 100% of hours worked on the project will be performed by trade construction subcontractors who have or are affiliated with an apprenticeship program; and over the term of the TSA will deposit nearly $138K into the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund that goes to support the City’s parks, pools, waterparks, and recreation centers.

City Council Requests Audit of the 2017 $45M Bond for Public Works Projects

Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilman David A. Salvatore (Ward 14) introduced two resolutions requesting that the City of Providence provide status reports and updates on street and sidewalk projects and their expenditures associated with the $45M Bond that was approved by the City Council in 2017.

“To date the Council has had not been updated regarding what Bond proceeds have been expended,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “I have been advocating for accountability for the work that was authorized under this bond for months. When constituents question why certain streets are being paved or not, and why the City is installing ill-conceived street redesign plans they deserve to know how the City is spending their tax dollars. I also want to know how much of these funds were used to develop the Mayor’s ‘Great Streets’ initiative. I am not an opponent of bicycle lanes, in fact, I support creating an urban environment conducive to multimodal transportation. However, that was not what the City Council had in mind when we authorized the City to secure this bond funding. Our goal was to make sure that we spend precious taxpayer dollars to pave and fix as many streets and sidewalks as possible, and to ensure accountability in the process.”

The resolution introduced by Majority Leader Ryan and Deputy Majority Leader Harris focusses on the portion of the funding that was allocated for street repairs, paving, and improvements. “In my Ward there has been little improvement to our streets and that concerns me. My constituents continually ask when their streets are being paved or repaired and I just don’t have the answers. They deserve better,” stated Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris.

In 2017 the City Council approved the Elorza Administration to take out a $45M Bond to implement a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to fund critical improvements to streets, sidewalks, and other infrastructure projects. To date the City Council has not received a public report regarding the status of these funds.

Councilman David A. Salvatore stated, “Holding the Administration accountable for how they spend our resident’s hard-earned tax dollars is not only our duty, but it is unfortunate that we have to do so by passing legislation to get a breakdown of what work has been done. I hear from constituents every day about the state of our sidewalks. I realize that this was a large scale project, but their needs to be transparency for our residents.”

The City Council is requesting the Administration and the Director of Public Works to submit a project progress report and fiduciary updates to the City’s Internal Auditor for review within 30 days of passage.

Statement from Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris

Today, for the first time, I was made aware of an ongoing plan to create a nightclub district bordering my ward. This idea, championed by Dylan Conley, chair of our City’s Board of Licenses, and supported by a couple of my colleagues, is concerning to say the least. Even more disappointing is the fact that my neighbors and I have been left out of the conversation leading up to the big announcements over the weekend and this morning.

Surely, the next Councilor from Ward 10 (where this district is being considered) should’ve had a say before this type of proposal went public. Undeniably, our families and business owners are often taken for granted when grand developments are envisioned in our community.

Too often, the Southside is used as a dumping ground for the ideas no one else is willing to house in their own backyards. While homeless shelters, social service agencies, and rehab centers (just to name a few) are all worthwhile investments, why is it always the Southside community that has to compromise quality of life for the better good?

My neighbors and families deserve better than the treatment they’re too often afforded. This idea, like too many others, devalues our voice and assumes indifference. I’m hoping to learn more about this nightclub district proposal in the coming days and hope that my constituents are formally invited to the table.

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