Say goodbye to the Warwick Station Development District.
No, the district isn’t going any place, but it will get a new name. The choices have been narrowed down to four as a result of an online survey conducted by (add)ventures, the consulting firm retained to develop and vet a marketing plan for the district lying between the airport terminal and Jefferson Boulevard to the west.
Leading by a slim margin is “Warwick Crossings.”
In the second place spot is the name suggested by Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, “Warwick Landing.” And close behind that are the names “City Center Warwick,” and “Warwick Centre.”
Warwick City Planner William DePasquale said yesterday the selection would be further refined with a survey of district stakeholders, including businesses, community leaders and elected officials. Scores of names were suggested in an online survey promoted through the Warwick Beacon, the city and the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce websites. The survey solicited suggestions as well as got participants to think of the district from two basic perspectives – it’s historical significance as the site of the Elizabeth Mill and the village of Hillsgrove and its future potential where three modes of transportation – aviation, rail and highway converge.
DePasquale said a preponderance of respondents favored communicating the excitement of an active and thriving center to a link to the area’s rich history. A name is all part of a plan aimed at branding the district and targeting sectors for its marketing.
Whether a new name will attract new investment remains to be seen. But regardless, the district already has the attention of a lot of people. DePasquale can’t offer a count of the number of presentations he’s made to realtors and possible developers that have shown an interest in the concept of a district incorporating mixed uses, including retail, residential, office and hotel space, that are all linked to Green Airport, rail commuter service to Boston and easy access to Route 95.
But he’s not likely to forget the delegation he addressed last week. The group from China made contact with the Economic Development Corporation that has been working with the city on marketing the district.
DePasquale did not disclose the identity of the group but said he wouldn’t be surprised if it included some top government officials looking to invest dollars in something offering a greater return than Treasury Bills.
Whether those returns, and for that matter development as envisioned by the city, are possible could hinge on the actions of the General Assembly.
This afternoon, DePasquale will testify before the House Finance Committee, advocating restoration of the historic preservation tax credit. Should legislators approve the bill and current owners of the Elizabeth Mill – Leviton Manufacturing – be eligible, developers could receive about $5 million in tax credits.
DePasquale believes that may be the difference between preserving a portion of a signature building in the district or having it reduced to rubble. Last year, it appeared the building would be demolished as its owners looked to reduce taxes on a building that has gone empty since Leviton moved.
DePasquale sees a link between the mill’s role as one of the first stream driven mills in the country and its dependence on rail transportation and its role today in helping brand a new area for the growth of commerce.
“It is one of the most important parts of preserving place,” he said, “so that it is not just ‘Anyplace, USA.’”
According to the planning department, a complete build out of the district master plan could boost property taxes from $4 million to $10.3 million.
DePasquale will make that argument and that of new jobs created by the preservation’s success.
He will also argue for the historic tax credit on behalf of what it could mean for development of the Pontiac Mill. He called Pontiac and other historic properties in the state “gems” that should be preserved and converted to new uses.
“A lot of these properties,” he said, “are on the cusp of being torn down and lost forever.”