PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – What did it take to get the Providence City Council to move forward with a tax break for a proposed hotel in place of the long-vacant Fogarty building in downtown?
A call from the governor, apparently.
Gov. Gina Raimondo confirmed Tuesday that she was “very involved” in convincing the council to support a $2.5-million tax-stabilization agreement to help the Cranston-based Procaccianti Group build a 154-room extended-stay hotel at 111 Fountain St., next door to the Providence Journal building.
“That’s the first major real estate development in Providence in a long time,” Raimondo said during a meeting with reporters Tuesday. “That took a lot of elbow grease.”
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Raimondo’s comments came a day after the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation agreed to reimburse the city for 10% of the projected foregone tax revenue over the life of the 12-year deal. One of many economic development tools included in the governor’s first budget, the reimbursement incentive is designed to encourage municipalities to enter into tax deals with developers.
Under the terms of the deal that was approved by the City Council in December, the Procaccianti Group, which has owned the Fountain Street property since 2005, would pay full taxes on the current value of the vacant property – about $1.6 million – for three years before it begins to gradually phase in tax payments based on the actual value of the building over the following nine years.
A fiscal note prepared by the city’s tax assessor shows the Procaccianti Group will pay about $2.8 million in taxes over the life of the deal. Without a tax break, the company would have paid $5.3 million, but it is unlikely the project would have moved forward.
The tax-stabilization agreement languished in the City Council for several months as private labor unions publicly sparred over the terms of the deal. On one side, the construction trades painted the hotel project as a significant job creator that will pour millions of dollars into the local economy. On the other side was Unite Here Local 217, the local hotel workers’ union, which wanted the Procaccianti Group to commit to staffing their hotel with union members.
Raimondo confirmed what was widely whispered in City Hall circles over the last few months: she helped nudge the project along.
She said she made a personal phone call to Council President Luis Aponte. Others on her staff called members of the City Council Finance Committee on the day they voted to send the deal to the full council. (Three of the Finance Committee’s five members work in state government; another works for the hotel workers’ union.)
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Raimondo said.
The governor said she’s “happy it’s done” and she hopes the project and the economic incentives the state is offering will serve as a catalyst for future development.
“It’s going to be a crane in the sky,” she said. “It’s going to be development. It’s going to be jobs.”