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Metro Roundup: Bonds on the ballot

Superman building tax treaty approved as new housing development has ribbon cutting

<p>Along with a gubernatorial election and a hotly-contested U.S. House race, Rhode Islanders will decide on three ballot questions surrounding funding for the University of Rhode Island, the state&#x27;s public schools and green economy bonds.</p><p></p>

Along with a gubernatorial election and a hotly-contested U.S. House race, Rhode Islanders will decide on three ballot questions surrounding funding for the University of Rhode Island, the state's public schools and green economy bonds.

Tomorrow, Rhode Island residents will head to the polls. Along with a gubernatorial election, a tightly-contested U.S. House race and contests for local and state representatives, voters will decide on three state bond referenda. 

Meanwhile, development remains ongoing downtown: The Providence City Council recently granted the Superman building a three-decade tax stabilization deal, and a new mixed-use development opened in the city’s Innovation and Design District.

Ballot initiatives: What should the Ocean State invest in?

The first question asks if Rhode Island should borrow $100 million to finance marine education and research needs at the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus, according to the state’s Voter Information Handbook.


The investment would fund the demolition and reconstruction of a lab that tests for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — often called PFAS or “forever chemicals” — in Rhode Island’s drinking water, WPRI reported.

In 2018, nearly 60% of voters supported a bond question that authorized $45 million for “facility enhancements” at URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus.

Rhode Island’s second ballot measure asks voters if the state should borrow $250 million for public school renovations and construction, according to the handbook. The state of Rhode Island took over the Providence Public School District in 2019, The Herald previously reported.

If the measure passes, districts can request funding for projects addressing health concerns, career and technical education and early childhood education.

The third ballot question asks for voters to approve Rhode Island issuing $50 million in green economy bonds, which would fund environmental and recreational projects, according to the handbook. 

The money would be split across nine different projects, including $16 million for municipal resiliency against flooding and $12 million for the Roger Williams Park and Zoo.

Providence City Council passes tax stabilization for Superman building

On Nov. 3, the Providence City Council approved a tax stabilization plan for the building at 111 Westminster St., also known as the Superman building. The plan projects that it will save the building’s owners, High Rock Westminster St. LLC, more than $29 million in over 30 years, while the long-vacant building converts from office space to housing and retail units in a $223 million public-private partnership.

The treaty will hold the development’s tax bill steady for 10 years beginning in 2023, before gradually raising the property’s taxes up to its fully assessed bill by 2054. The agreement passed for a second and final time on an 11-2 vote Nov. 3, with Councilors Mary Kay Harris and Katherine Kerwin voting against the tax treaty and Councilwoman Rachel Miller abstaining.

Harris said she was against the city’s funding of a “rich development” while people in her ward experience homelessness, The Providence Journal reported. 


Councilman John Goncalves ’13 MA’15, who supported the plan, highlighted that the percentage of “affordable” units in the Superman building increased from 10% to 20% in the state’s negotiations with High Rock, The Providence Journal reported. Rent in the estimated 57 affordable units will range from $1,384 to $2,076 per month.

Ribbon cutting ceremony marks completion of new mixed-use development

Gov. Dan McKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and I-195 Commission members celebrated the completion of the construction of Emblem 125, a mixed-use development in Providence’s Innovation and Design District, with a Nov. 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Developed by Exeter Property Group, Emblem 125 includes 248 units and over 22,000 square feet of retail space. Some of those units are designated as “workforce housing” — often defined as housing priced for households that need rent assistance but do not qualify for affordable housing subsidies.

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“Bordered by urban trails, Emblem 125 is part of a better-connected Providence that is accessible to all,” Matos said in the press release. “Developments like this one strengthen our communities by making it easier to live, work and shop within your own neighborhood. I’m looking forward to working with our partners across the state to build more housing and make Rhode Island an even better place to live.”

Ashley Guo

Ashley Guo is an arts & culture writer and layout designer. She previously covered city and state politics as a Metro section editor. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, swimming, and reading!

Caleb Lazar

Caleb Lazar is the senior editor of data desk for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board.

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