PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A key deadline for the mammoth Tidewater Landing project came and went as state and Pawtucket leaders focused on the coronavirus crisis, but “progress” by the city and developer has led to an extension, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
In early April, the clock ran out on the initial 120-day due diligence period for Fortuitous Partners to line up investors and other details for the $400 million, three-site riverfront complex, but the R.I. Commerce Corp. has extended that deadline to May 31, citing “significant milestones.”
Commerce spokesman Brian Hodge said the extension is not a “delay,” and he emphasized the “project is on track.”
The “milestones” include the Pawtucket City Council naming Fortuitous Partners as the preferred developer for Tidewater, which is slated to include a soccer stadium on one side of the Seekonk River, with a bridge connecting that spot to a riverwalk, hotel and retail space on the other side.
Also, Mayor Don Grebien was authorized to execute lease agreements for the Division Street and Tidewater sites. Negotiations continue for the city to acquire the third piece of property, up river, where the Apex department store building sits.
Pawtucket spokesman Wil Arboleda said the city’s “primary focus” on its COVID-19 response has impacted negotiations with the Apex owners.
“The conversations will resume as soon as possible,” Arboleda said. “We want to thank the Apex team for their patience and understanding.”
According to Grebien, the impact the virus had on the stock market also rattled some nerves.
Fortuitous was “a little concerned on the first week when the market did such a dip and they said, what are the impacts?” Grebien said.
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling more than 10,000 points from mid-February to late March, Grebien said the city council went to work on giving Fortuitous exclusive development rights to help the company sell the project.
The council vote came two days after the Dow hit its March 23 low.
“We worked with them and gave them a letter of commitment,” Grebien said. “So they could show their investors we’re still on track. The project is happening.”
The Tidewater Landing proposal is supposed to be funded with $300 million in private money, plus between $70 to $90 million in public funding that would be covered by the state’s Tax Increment Financing program, or TIF, which allows borrowed money to be paid back with sales and hotel taxes from the finished development.
Grebien and Fortuitous principal Brett Johnson have said the Opportunity Zone program, created by the Trump administration and Congress, will attract private investors by deferring their capital gains taxes if they pump their money into Tidewater.
Johnson referred Target 12 to local Fortuitous spokesman David Preston who said the city’s recent approval of its revised Pawtucket Redevelopment Plan is “a necessary step” toward finalizing the TIF.
Grebien said he has weekly conversations with Fortuitous.
“They’re on track. They’re still out there raising money,” Grebien said. “They’re very, very confident in the project. Very confident they have all the investors.”
According to the Commerce Corporation, the next phase of the project is expected to take the remainder of the spring, and will include finalizing the master plan and the TIF, as well as beginning the regulatory approval process.
Projections for the development include 2,500 construction jobs, more than 1,000 permanent jobs and a predicted $130 million annual impact to the local economy.