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Johnson: $400M soccer project still works without Apex

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – In the event the Apex owners are unwilling to sell their land to make possible part of a $400 million development in Pawtucket, the developer said he’s willing to relocate elements of the proposal to move the project forward.

Fortuitous Partners founder Brett Johnson — who is heading the effort to develop the land anchored by a professional soccer stadium beside the Seekonk River — said he’s supportive of the city and state effort to acquire the Apex site.

But the absence of such a deal will not alter his charge to erect a hotel and events center in Pawtucket, he said.

“Godspeed relative to Pawtucket’s dialogue with the Apex site, Commerce’s discussion, etc., but from Fortuitous’ perspective, we have what we need,” Johnson said during a taping of Dan Yorke State of Mind scheduled to air Friday.

Johnson said he has already tasked his architects with coming up with a design that puts the hotel and events center, currently proposed for the Apex site, on the west bank of the Seekonk River where the soccer stadium is slated to be built on the so-called Tidewater site.

“That Tidewater site would be 365 days of activation there. The event center is a critical driver of economic activity, foot traffic, etc. It’s imperative that we program that, so I either want to program it at Division or Tidewater,” Johnson said.

The Apex site, at one time the home of a major department store and clearly visible from Interstate 95, has long been a sticking point in past efforts to develop the downtown area.

Most recently, the Pawtucket Red Sox pitched a plan to build a new stadium on the Apex site, and while there were several reasons behind the deal ultimately falling apart, the team’s owners repeatedly raised concerns about access to the land.

“How can we proceed with a ballpark on a site whose owner has refused to sell at a price the city can afford?” the PawSox owners wrote in a letter explaining their decision to relocate to Worcester.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, nonetheless, has expressed optimism that the city is nearing a deal with the Apex owners, and said he’s ready to acquire the land using eminent domain as a last resort.

Regardless, Johnson said, he’s moving along with his plan.

“We’re full speed ahead,” he told Yorke.

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

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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