PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The so-called Tidewater Landing project that includes a plan for a waterfront soccer stadium is facing a critical moment, as state officials consider whether to pump an additional $30 million of taxpayer support into the increasingly expensive project.
The price tag for Phase 1 of the massive development alongside the Seekonk River in Pawtucket has recently mushroomed from $284 million to $344 million, a cost hike developer Fortuitous Partners has attributed to inflation and supply chain-related issues.
The development includes 435 housing units, a parking garage and a 10,000-seat soccer stadium where a professional team is expected to play its home games. But to address the soaring costs, which includes a nearly 50% increase for the stadium alone, Fortuitous and Pawtucket city officials are asking the state to put up an additional $30 million in financial support.
The extra money would bring the state’s buy-in to $57 million so far through its tax incremental financing program. Additionally, the state has already allocated more than $10 million in other incentives.
On Monday, Fortuitous and city officials met behind closed doors for multiple hours with the R.I. Commerce Corp. board. Gov. Dan McKee, who oversaw the proceedings, stopped short of throwing his support behind the $30 million request.
“We’re looking for a solution of some sort and yet at the same time we have to do right by the people we serve, the taxpayers need to be in the mix,” he said.
A McKee spokesperson later explained that if the state decides to proceed with the project that “they are looking for non-state revenues to join in closing the $30 million financial gap.”
When asked whether the developer had a back-up plan in the event the state decided against putting up more money, Fortuitous’ Brett Johnson said he’s so much of an optimist he hasn’t “even begun to contemplate” the idea.
“I would be doing a disservice if I started thinking about a Plan B,” Johnson said during a conference call with reporters. “We’re all-in on Plan A.”
Separate from the request from the state, Fortuitous has committed to putting in an additional $25 million to help address the cost increases, which would come on top of its initial $20 million investment.
The developer also said they have found $20 million in savings by sourcing different types of building materials and altering some of their plans.
When the plan was originally pitched in 2019 – a project with a cost of about $400 million – taxpayers were expected to contribute between $70 million and $90 million. But public officials promised the plan would pay for itself with the tax revenue generated from the ensuing economic activity.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said the city has already put about $20 million of local money into the development. He’s hopeful the state will help cover the rest.
“The dollars are there, so there is no reason they should say ‘no,'” Grebien told reporters. “But if they do, we’re going to have to digest that and figure out where we are.”