Taveras rolls out plan to jumpstart Providence - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Taveras rolls out plan to jumpstart Providence

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Dee DeQuattro

ddequattro@abc6.com

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras sees a city with vibrant store fronts, a pedestrian friendly city square, street cars rolling through city streets, a healthy and lively business climate, and a top notch school system.

Taveras rolled out his plan to help jumpstart the Providence economy and get people back to work on Wednesday morning. The plan included redeveloping Kennedy Plaza into a public square, bringing streetcars back to the city, bringing life back to city store fronts, cutting red tape for businesses and launching a marketing campaign to bring tourist to Providence.

The action plan suggested what Taveras called a "strategic framework" and "several immediate economic steps," to "rapidly propel" Providence's economy forward.

The  22-page report noted that while Rhode Island struggles with significantly high unemployment, the unemployment rate for Providence is worse especially among Hispanics and African Americans.

A chart shows the unemployment rate in the Providence-New Bedford- Fall River Metropolitan area among Hispanics is 23.3% and among African American's it's 17.1%, white where as 10.1%.

The report discusses Rhode Island's unfriendly business climate and reviews ways that Providence can overcome these obstacles.

One of the issues addressed is that Providence's commercial tax obligation on businesses is significantly higher than other cities and towns. Providence also experiences a real estate tax rate 45% higher than the statewide average.

Taveras said "bold" actions are required to address Providence's struggling economy.

He highlighted a list of immediate action steps to begin to address the problem. He suggests:

  • Freeze the Commercial tax Rate effective immediately.
  • Fix the permitting problem by creating a new departmental sub group to focus on helping simple small dollar projects proceed quickly. The city will also allow for an online application process.
  • Remove barriers to redevelopment: The city will conduct an inventory of major properties eligible for redevelopment and fast-rack demolition for developers who commit to replacing structures within 18-months.
  • Develop lots city wide: This initiative will offer tax exemptions to incentive new development on Providence surface parking lots.
  • Reinvent Kennedy Plaza: This initiative will work to reroute RIPTA bus l;lines away from Kennedy Plaza and redevelop  the area as a public square pedestrian destination.

In addition the city will also undertake a series of initiatives to rebuild Providence's infrastructure and improve the business climate, including:

  • Invest in storefront improvement: Over a six month period Taveras plans to seek approval from the Providence Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors to reimburse eligible main-street-facing small businesses for storefront capital improvement.
  • Provide targeted back office support: This initiative will offer small companies and start ups the opportunity to receive technical support and assistance for their business for a small fee.
  • Reform the city's zoning ordinance: the city will undertake a comprehensive update of the current zoning ordinance in order to promote development.
  • Invest in historic preservation: Providence will push for the reinstatement of the Historic Preservation Investment Tax Credit to help private investors rehabilitate historic project throughout Rhode Island.
  • Market available real estate: The city's Department of economic development will maintain a  database of properties that are vacant or available for development  online. In addition the city will market site selections to firms throughout the country.

To reform the tax and regulatory policies the city will:

  • Raise participation in state incentive programs: Providence will conduct an inventory of businesses eligible to take advantage of state incentive program and will use a outreach campaign to increase participation in the programs over the next twelve months.
  • Review statewide regulatory policy: The city proposes a review of the stats labor, tax, and regulatory policy to bring Rhode Island standards in line with national norms.

To invest in Providence's people and emerging enterprises

  • Raise Student Achievement by introducing new standards  for student outcomes and a path to achieving them. Providence will implement two program Providence Talk and Providence reads to help children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
  • Expand apprenticeship programs: the city will try to partner established apprenticeship operators with local educational institutions.
  • Support nursing and health sciences by bringing a nursing school to downtown Providence.
  • Expand adult education and close the skills gap by seeking new partnerships with Rhode Island's education institution and expanding English immersion course offerings.

To address Providence infrastructure the Mayor plans to:

  • Make street cars a reality: Providence will aggressively pursue a sustainable funding strategy to bring streetcars back to Providence.

The report also includes some high point for the city.

  • Rehabilitate foreclosed properties: Providence will work with Community Development Corporations to rehabilitate abandoned and vacant residential properties.  The program aims to put people back to work rebuilding Providence's hardest hit neighborhoods.

Lastly the proposal included a plan to market Providence. Working with the tourism council Providence will launch the "Come to Providence" campaign highlighting the city's assets. In addition the city will improve the visitor experience by erect visitor kiosks starting with Kennedy Plaza.

The report also outlined some of the areas where Providence is already doing well.

It highlights Providence's "knowledge economy" and the city's top employers the "meds and eds" meaning hospitals and educational institutions which account for 22 percent of the Providence labor force.

The report also highlights the strength in the Providence tourism and hospitality industry noting in June of 2012 80% of Providence's hotel rooms were occupied. It also emphasizes Providence's national recognition as top for food, drink, and restaurants.

Providence's art scene or the "creative economy" is also highlighted in the report noting that the city has been voted one of America's top art places. The report says Providence has had an increase of over 145 arts related business in 2010.

The report indicates the "working waterfront" as one of Providence Assets noting that Rhode Island based exports are on the rise as the city exports over 100,000 metric tons of scrap annually. In addition with a 10.5 million dollar federal grant the Port of Providence is expecting to see two new state-of-the-art mobile harbor cranes.

The report also highlight the Providence's workforce training initiatives and its job fair initiative.

 


 

Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.

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