By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Managing Editor
PAWTUCKET – Owners of the Narragansett Park Plaza along Newport Avenue at the Pawtucket/East Providence line are seeking to develop 118,770 square feet of office space, 72 residential units, 240,770 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and one drive-through restaurant.
Those behind the project say it would transform the underutilized plaza at 7 and 45 Newport Ave., the former home to a Stop & Shop store.
The City Planning Commission on Dec. 19 approved a master plan for the project, as well as recommended a change to the zoning ordinance. The plan still needs many more state and local approvals, including from boards in Pawtucket and East Providence.
Representatives for the Amalgamated Financial Group are petitioning to create the Commercial Mixed-Use District, or CMU District, and designate the plaza as such a district. A wide range of uses would be allowed within the district.
Director of Planning Sue Mara said the intent of the requested zone change is to allow for more flexibility in permitted uses and dimensional requirements to encourage redevelopment of large multi-tenant commercial properties – essentially economic development.
The Planning Commission made a favorable recommendation on the zone change, but the request has not yet been scheduled for review by the City Council or its ordinance committee, said Mara. The proposed zone change requires City Council adoption.
The property developers, the Carpionato Group, are moving forward with major land development requests in Pawtucket and East Providence. About 10.5 acres of the 24.9-acre property is located in Pawtucket, and the remaining 14.4 acres is located in East Providence.
Included in Pawtucket is the 58,000-square-foot vacant retail space previously occupied by Stop & Shop.
The master plan approved by the Planning Commission basically represents a concept and allows the developer to move forward with certified plans, said Mara. The applicant intends to receive master plan approval from East Providence in the next few months, she said.
Materials required before submitting formal application for the more detailed preliminary plan review by both the Pawtucket City Planning Commission and East Providence Planning Board include Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Management permits, certified engineering, architecture and landscape plans, a traffic impact analysis, and publicly noticed hearings moving forward.
Kelly Coates, senior vice president of commercial leasing at the Carpionato Group, told the Planning Commission during the pre-Christmas meeting that he expected preliminary plans to be submitted by this summer, and construction to begin later this year.
Coates said the vision is for a “lifestyle center” of sorts, with just about everything someone needs in one spot.
Coates described current inefficiencies at the site and emphasized the high volume of vacancies in the plaza. The goal is to reconfigure the plaza to front onto Newport Avenue, enhancing vehicle access to the site by eliminating a “slipway” from Narragansett Park Drive and installing a traffic signal on Newport Avenue.
The project would incorporate residential and office units above commercial spaces, encouraging the success of anchor tenants, said Coates.
No anchor tenants have been confirmed, the developers told the board, but they said food and retail are major components of such projects.