Pledging Action, Mayor Taveras Outlines Plan to Grow Providence's Economy
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Pledging Action, Mayor Taveras Outlines Plan to Grow Providence's Economy

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'Putting Providence Back to Work' report presents roadmap to improve the business climate, infrastructure and human capital in Rhode Island's Capital City.

Mayor Angel Taveras today announced a 20-step economic development action plan to put Providence residents back to work and jumpstart the economy of Rhode Island's Capital City.

The Mayor said that Providence's economy must be built on the success of a broad range of industries and sectors, and pledged swift action to improve Providence's business climate, infrastructure and human capital.

"When we work together, we can compete head to head with any city or state in this country," said Mayor Taveras. "Nothing will change minds about Providence as much as continuing our track record of success."

The Mayor outlined five immediate steps his administration will pursue to support and grow Providence's economy:

  1. Freeze the commercial tax rate - The Taveras administration will work with the Providence City Council to enact a seven-year commercial real estate tax freeze that guarantees consistency and stability for developers in Rhode Island and beyond.

    "Freezing our commercial property tax rate will send a message that Providence is serious about attracting new business. We look forward to the day when economic growth in our City enables us to actually lower Providence's commercial rate," Mayor Taveras said.

  2. Fix the City's Permitting Process - Contained in the FY14 budget that Mayor Taveras will present to the City Council next month are two positions to staff a new unit in the Department of Inspections and Standards focused solely on reviewing and approving small-permit applications of under $100,000. These small projects account for 75 percent of all permit applications in the City.

    Additionally, this summer the City will move its permit application process online. For the first time, developers will only need to log onto the City's website to apply for a permit and get status updates on their applications.

  3. Remove Barriers to Redevelopment - The City will conduct an inventory of all major properties in need of redevelopment. For properties that are not defined as historic landmarks, the City will put on a fast-track for approval all projects to replace existing structures with new construction.

    "We recognize that the City has an important role to play in facilitating new development. It is time to get cranes in the air and put people to work rebuilding our city," Mayor Taveras said.

  4. Develop Surface Lots Citywide - To stimulate real estate development and ease the crunch on parking downtown, the Taveras administration will work with the City Council to provide tax stabilizations to developers who commit to new development on existing surface lots. New construction on an existing lot will be taxed based on the property's current assessed value. This program will create jobs, incentivize new, mixed-use developments, and spur new investment on Providence's major commercial corridors.

  5. Reinvent Kennedy Plaza - The City will work with the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, RIPTA and other public and private partners to reconfigure and reduce the number of buses in the Plaza and transform it into a pedestrian destination.

Other actions outlined in Mayor Taveras' 22-page economic development plan include providing targeted, operational support to small businesses, and reimbursing main street businesses in every neighborhood for their storefront improvements.

The City will also work with Providence's community development organizations to rehabilitate foreclosed properties and create an up-to-date database of properties across Providence that are available for development.

Mayor Taveras also announced he will launch a regional marketing campaign that invites visitors to "Come to Providence" and enjoy the City's acclaimed restaurants, museums, parks, zoo, festivals, theaters, shops and arts events.

"This action plan presents a roadmap to a new era of opportunity and prosperity for Providence. I am excited to work with my team to implement these actions and accelerate economic growth in our City," said James Bennett, Providence's Director of Economic Development.

Since taking office in January, 2011, Mayor Taveras has worked with the City's labor unions, retirees, tax-exempt organizations and other stakeholders throughout Rhode Island to successfully tackle a $110 million budget deficit. Next month, Providence is scheduled to complete a municipal pension reform that has been described an unprecedented example for other cities to follow.

"Through hard work and shared sacrifice, we have saved Providence from collapse and built a solid fiscal foundation upon which we are ready to grow our City's economy," Mayor Taveras said.

The Mayor unveiled his economic development plan at a special trustee meeting of The Providence Foundation attended by more than 120 leaders from Providence's business community, educational and health care institutions and community groups. The meeting was held at Brown University's Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM).

Read the full report here.

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