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I-195 Commission says it won’t extend Fane tower deadline again

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission on Thursday agreed to extend a deadline for the developer of the so-called Fane tower to submit a tax treaty application, saying it would be the last time.

Commission Chairman Robert Davis wrote a letter to developer Jason Fane, of The Fane Organization, explaining the deadline to file the so-called tax-stabilization agreement with Providence has been extended until Dec. 1.

The decision extends an ongoing period of leniency by the commission, as the initial deadline was set for June 30 and has been repeatedly extended.

But Davis appears to have run out of patience.

“We must advise you that there will be no further extension of the filing date for the TSA,” he wrote.  

Fane spokesperson Dante Bellini fired back, saying the developer came to Providence to build a tower, “not to fight with the 195 Commission over bureaucratic red tape.”

“It is unfortunate that Chairman Davis chose to send a public letter, rather than picking up the phone and working through a simple deadline issue that is misplaced to begin with,” Bellini said.

The back and forth comes as the developer — who is looking to build a 46-story high-rise of luxury apartments called the Hope Point Tower on the former I-195 land in downtown Providence — has signaled he will need another extension come December.

According to the letter, Fane’s attorney Jeffrey Padwa told the commission it could take several months to obtain construction cost estimates from their general contractor, which would require more time to file the application.

“We expect therefore to request a further extension as the December 1st deadline approaches,” Padwa said, according to the letter.

Davis has worked with Fane on the project since the developer and the commission signed a purchase and sales agreement in January, but the process has been anything but smooth.

Davis is now questioning Fane’s process, saying most developers typically know their cost estimates early in the pre-development process.

“We were surprised to now learn that in your case you seem to have submitted a design and entertained modifications to that design without such consideration,” Davis wrote. “It concerns us that you seem to be pursuing a major project without the kind of pro forma that would ordinarily be expected.”

The tax-treaty application is part of the ongoing development process required of Fane to build the controversial tower, which would become the tallest building in Rhode Island. The developer recently estimated the cost of the project could be $300 million, meaning the tax treaty application fee would total about $300,000.

Bellini said the application should be due at the end of the development process.

“This project required a highly negotiated document with hundreds of deadlines,” he said. “The [application] should have be placed much later in the process.”

In response to the news about the deadline extension, City Councilman David Salvatore, D-Ward 14, released a statement saying he was disappointed but not surprised. He raised concerns about Fane’s unwillingness to submit the application, along with the fee, which he recently requested to pay to the city in installments.

“If Mr. Fane needs a payment plan for his filing fee, which is just a fraction of the cost of this proposed building, then how will he be able to finance the $300 million needed to actually build the Hope Point Tower? Our taxpayers cannot afford to foot the bill if this development fails,” Salvatore said.

The developer, who has described the regulatory process as “endless,” cleared a major hurdle on Sept. 25 when he received commission approval for a final design. The hearing was attended by dozens of union members and supporters who see the tower as a positive in a city in need of new construction.

A Fane spokesman earlier this week said the developer would not meet the most recent tax-treaty deadline because they are still waiting for an approval from Paul Loether, who serves as the state historic preservation officer.

Loether has authority over reviewing the project even though the tower would not be located in a historic district because his involvement was built into an original agreement made when the federal government sold the land to the state after it relocated the interstate. He told Target 12 his goal is to have the report completed next week.

“It’s really a question of whether it will have an adverse effect and detract from the significance and character of the surrounding historic districts,” Loether said.

In addition to the tax-treaty application, the commission reminded Fane he must also submit a development plan by Nov. 1.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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