PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — After being unable to reach a deal over the Apex site off I-95, Pawtucket officials are turning to more drastic measures to acquire the land as part of their plans to redevelop the city’s downtown area.
On Friday, Mayor Donald Grebien’s office announced it has sent letters to the city council and Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency seeking to obtain the five parcels through eminent domain.
“Years of regular, cordial, and good faith negotiations for purchase have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful,” the mayor’s office wrote in a news release.
The proposal represents a distinct shift in strategy after city leaders released updated redevelopment plans last month, indicating the site of the mostly empty department store was no longer in the mix.
The city’s planned overhaul of its downtown area includes a professional soccer stadium, a commuter rail stop, and other mixed-use development, with the hope of making it into a regional destination.
“Pawtucket residents deserve a downtown that they can be proud of,” Mayor Donald Grebien wrote in the news release. “We’ve worked so hard with the Pawtucket City Council, the Pawtucket Foundation, local businesses, our state and federal elected leaders, and others to move downtown forward. While there is still much work to do, ensuring that the Downtown Gateway Project provides recreational and economic opportunities for our city will go a long way toward revitalizing Downtown.”
The price tag on the public-private investment was initially pegged at $400 million, but that was lowered to $300 million with the Apex site no longer factored in.
The land was initially sought as a potential site for a new PawSox stadium, but owners eventually decided to take the minor league baseball team to Worcester, Mass.
Grebien’s office said the city will continue to work with the property owners — Apex Property Group — in hopes of acquiring the site through a consensual sale.
“After years of negotiations, we have reached a point where it appears as though the parties will not be able to agree upon a fair price,” Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle said. “Eminent domain is a tool in the toolbox, that, while we did not want to exercise, will enable the acquisition of the properties so that Downtown Pawtucket can continue to move forward.”
Bill Fischer, a spokesperson for Apex Property Group, released a statement to 12 News saying the group “had its own development plans put on hold as it knows the city wants to acquire the property.”
“We agree with the city that the best path forward for the acquisition of this property is consensual agreement. We have been at the negotiating table in good faith and will continue to be.
“The best path forward and the most cost-effective path for taxpayers is good faith negotiations and for everyone to return to the negotiating table.
“Again, we have only negotiated in good faith, we are not miles apart and believe consensus can be reached.”