Monday night’s Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) Board Meeting provided an overview and update on the Warwick Station Development District for members of the board, new and old.
The meeting served as the first for new members Tim Hebert, Elizabeth Francis and Judith Diaz. The entire board was able to take a tour of T.F. Green Airport, where this month’s meeting was held, and the Interlink. While on the tour, the group had an unobstructed view of the Station District; Diaz expressed her interest in watching the project grow as a member of the Board.
Later in the meeting, John Riendeau, director of business development for RIEDC, delivered a presentation on the development project to update the board on any progress.
Riendeau highlighted key components of the project for the new members of the board.
At the moment, Riendeau is awaiting the final decision on a name for the newly updated district. The choices, which were compiled from suggestions from partners and the public, have been narrowed down to four: Warwick Landing, Warwick Centre, Warwick Crossings, and City Center Warwick.
“We want to get that done, if not by Friday, by early next week,” said Riendeau in a phone interview Tuesday.
He said once a name is chosen, work can begin on the branding aspect of the marketing plan, including the creation of a logo and website.
“This is all part of the marketing element,” said Riendeau.
While the marketing campaign will be used to entice business prospects and real estate developers to the area, Riendeau says his team has already been reaching out to businesses and current property owners to the 95-acre area.
The goal, according to Riendeau, is to create a walk-able environment for business, hospitality, retail and residential properties to make Warwick, and as a result, Rhode Island, “economically competitive in the Northeast market.”
A $400,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration was awarded to the Department of Transportation to fund the project; the RIEDC was asked to manage the grant.
Riendeau said familiarization tours, or FAM Tours, have been used to introduce new potential businesses to the area, or re-introduce current property owners to the area and their potential for growth.
“Making them aware of this opportunity; that is critical,” said Riendeau of connecting with current property owners in the district.
Riendeau presented an overview of the first approved project in the district, a 540,000-square-foot office complex with retail opportunities on the ground level and a 320-room hotel with a direct connection to the Interlink. The property, proposed by Michael D’Ambra, would consist of two buildings, which are designed to be mirror images of each other.
Riendeau explained that the property is in the very early planning stages and he still needs to speak to D’Ambra regarding many of the specifics, including finances.
Riendeau said he hopes the business leaders present and EDC board of directors walked away from Monday’s meeting with a sense that the project is on its way.
“We’re moving forward; the whole effort is moving forward,” he said. “We started in January and we are proceeding well. Once the name is selected, over the next two months, expect to see a lot of materials.”
Although the marketing campaign is the business community, Riendeau said the general public will not be excluded from information.
Riendeau expressed thanks to both Governor Lincoln Chafee and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian for their support on building up the area.
“They have been critical,” said Riendeau.