Richard Baccari II, a key developer in Rhode Island and principal of Royal Oaks Realty Ventures, entered into a purchase and sale agreement Jan. 20 with the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission for Parcel 8 — a LINK land site directly adjacent to property at 39 Pike Street that Baccari II owns. He proposed building a $20 million development complete with retail, residence and office spaces on the site, which is about a third of an acre.
The vote to enter the agreement was decided in a private commission meeting. It is the second purchase and sale agreement made by the commission regarding the LINK land, which was previously owned by I-195 and is slated for redevelopment.
“There’s a process outlined in the developer’s tool kit, and any developers are welcome to put in their proposals,” said Dyana Koelsch, president of DK Communications and media contact for the LINK. After the commission vetted the proposal, it negotiated a letter of intent and then entered the purchase and sale agreement, Koelsch said, adding that there are still several elements of the agreement pending. Koelsch did not specify the timeline for moving forward.
The developer had to reach a tax-stabilization agreement with Providence officials before the purchase and sale agreement could be reached, according to a statement made to the Providence Journal by Colin Kane, former chairman of the I-195 Redevelopment Commission.
Kane resigned from his post Jan. 29 and later told the Journal that he intends to “get back to work” after taking time off from his job to serve as the commission’s chairman. Both Kane and Gov. Gina Raimondo were unavailable for comment.
The Baccaris have a long history of development in Rhode Island. Baccari’s father, Richard Baccari I, developed buildings in Providence, Lincoln, East Greenwich and elsewhere, according to the Providence Business News. He was also recently acquitted on a two-count indictment of bribery for allegedly paying $50,000 to coerce Providence councilmen into voting for zoning changes for land related to his developments, according to an FBI press release.
In the 1980s, the rerouting of I-195 highway began, with the goal of opening up several tracts of land in the Providence area. The LINK land consists of 21 parcels composed by 19 acres of vacant lots. The land straddles the Jewelry District, College Hill, Fox Point and parts of the downtown area.
Established in 2011 by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission is responsible for selling the land to developers in efforts to stimulate the local and state economies. The commission hopes these lands will promote job growth in Rhode Island — the state with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country — according to the LINK website.
Parcel 28 was the first to reach a purchase and sale agreement. The decision to sell was made in November, the Herald previously reported. Located in the Jewelry District, the parcel is intended for student housing.
At least three other proposals have been rejected by the commission, including those for Parcel 30, Parcel 42 and Parcel 37. Parcel 30 was rejected because of the prospective developer’s intent to construct a parking lot, which is a forbidden use of LINK land per commission rules, Koelsch said.
Design and layout plans for development of Parcel 8 have yet to be determined. “There’s a design review committee that is looking at stuff. It’s pretty in-depth and takes into account a lot of input,” Koelsch said. “Parcel 28 isn’t finalized in its design yet either.”
Zoning laws set by Providence, as well as historic buildings limitations, will affect the design plans. “There is a state officer that deals with historic buildings. And there are a lot of different folks weighing in on design and zoning and how the land is developed,” Koelsch said.
The design plan for Parcel 28 has not yet been finalized. “We think the design needs a whole new process to review. We’re disturbed about the fact that the I-195 Commission is trying to do design review by themselves. They are not qualified to do that. We are trying to change that process,” said Arthur Salisbury, president of the Jewelry District Association. Salisbury said his discontent also involves the actual architecture of the proposed structure.
“The design of the building … wasn’t specifically designed for this site. There are three historic buildings that abut this piece of property, and there was no consideration given to that,” Salisbury said.
The commission can address this concern by consulting design experts, who are not currently part of the commission, Salisbury said.