Rhode Island’s informderati is all atwitter (pun intended) with the news of a “life-sciences complex” proposed for the land formerly occupied by I-195:
A real-estate investment and development company that partners with universities and hospitals across the country to build research parks has submitted a joint proposal to build a multimillion-dollar facility on 5 acres of former highway land in Providence — drawing praise from Governor Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and others.
Wexford Science & Technology of Baltimore, a subsidiary of BioMed Realty Trust Inc. in San Diego, and CV Properties LLC, the Boston firm leading development of South Street Landing on Eddy Street in Providence, hope to build a life-sciences complex with lab space, academic research space, a hotel, and retail and residential space. Richard Galvin, founder of CV Properties, said it’s too early to pin down exact costs, but “it will be several hundred million dollars” to build.
The details are sparse, so far, and one question that will need to be made explicit is whether “partnership” with a bunch of non-profit organizations means tax exemption for the development once it’s done. One can imagine a bunch of tax deals to get the thing built and then payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) once it’s operational.
Off the top of my head, the scorecard for that supposedly game-changing property is:
- Student housing
- A minor-league baseball stadium
- A facility with no prospective clients, thus far, other than non-profit universities
These strike me as things that a state should seek when its people are thriving, not when they’re tapped out for taxes and leaving the state in despair. But whaddayagonnado, I guess.
So far, developers that have submitted proposals are seeking tax-stabilization agreements with the city because Providence’s commercial property taxes are far higher than in other communities. Yet the city has not granted any such tax treaties yet.
It all comes back to an institutional mandate to maintain the power of government insiders. Unless that changes, Rhode Island’s done.