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Circa 1903. The Threat To Providence’s Working Waterfront Presentation to the North Atlantic Ports Association May 29, 2008. Outline. How We Got Here - Jim Therriault – Sprague Energy

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Circa 1903

The Threat To Providence’s Working Waterfront

Presentation to the North Atlantic Ports Association

May 29, 2008



  • How We Got Here - Jim Therriault – Sprague Energy
  • What is the Real Contribution of a Working Waterfront – Francis Mahady – FXM Associates
  • What We All Need to do to Survive – Christopher Hunter – Advocacy Solutions LLC


Option 1: Killing Them Quickly

A Public Taking

Round 1 – Mayor Vincent (Buddy) Cianci – Inaugural Address – January 4, 1999

“I will propose that the city acquire hundreds of acres of industrial property, at three separate locations not far from this spot. I will propose to completely redevelop this acreage for the highest quality commercial, institutional and residential uses…… The development we have in mind is on such a scale that we call each of the development areas a "New City." ……Where are these New Cities located? One is the old industrial waterfront – a sea of petroleum tanks, asphalt plants and other unsightly uses, stretching more than a mile along Allens Avenue. The industrial waterfront today contributes very little tax benefit to the city, and very little employment opportunity as well. In fact, the waterfront contributes only about $2 million in property taxes, or 1% of our total levy, and the petroleum industry employs fewer than 100 people. We cannot, and will not, allow this situation to continue. The waterfront is the most important asset that the New Providence has.Now is the time to put that asset to work, for the good of our city and our state. We can bring about billions in new investment, create tens of thousands of new jobs, and generate tens of millions in new tax revenue for the city.”

Kelo vs New London (June 2005)

Allowed public taking for a private use – Standard changed from a public use to a public benefit

Executive Order – Protecting the Property Rights of the American People (June 2006) – G.W. Bush

Prevented the use of federal funds on projects taken by eminent domain “…. merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken”


Option 2: Killing Them Slowly

Private Development

Achieved through city master plan Proposed Zoning Changes as illustrated in the Providence 2020 plan artist renderings below:


Providence Tomorrow

Comprehensive Plan

Public access, both physical and visual, to the waterfront must be the centerpiece of future redevelopment efforts along the Narragansett Bayfront. While each area of the waterfront is distinct, a continuous greenway dotted with civic places such as parks, piers and platformswill be the common thread along the waterfront, and is the long term vision of this Plan.-- pg 124

The area north of the Thurbers Avenue and south of the relocated I-195 along Allens Avenue is an industrial waterfront in transition.-- pg 125

The land area reserved for industrial uses, however, is currently more extensive than the demand for heavy industrial, water-dependent uses and activities. There is an increasing demand for commercial and tourist-related development such as hotels, restaurants and retail uses in this area. On lands no longer needed exclusively for maritime purposes, new maritime mixed-use developments could provide improved and expanded commercial and recreational maritime facilities, open spaces, residences and public access combined with revenue-generating, water-oriented activities and attractions to increase the public's enjoyment of the waterfront. -- pg 125

Currently, some uses in this area require much land and provide a small number of jobs, for example, one business employs 38 people, while consuming 75 acres of waterfront real estate.-- pg 126


Option 2: Killing Them Slowly

Private Development

The Providence Journal, September 24, 2007 “And last week, …. declared war on his neighbors, calling them “incredible polluters.” “This industrial waterfront is hazardous and obsolete,” says …. “They are operating like dinosaurs and like the dinosaurs, they should be extinct.”

Power Plant



Promet Marine

Entire area about

7 acres of dry land.


Meet Some of the Dinosaurs:

Promet Marine

  • Providing marine repair services
  • for the last 35 years
  • Two deepwater berths able to
  • handle ships ups to 700 ft
  • Highly skilled blue collar employees


Meet Some of the Dinosaurs:

Providence Steamboat

  • Operator of 6 tugboats on
  • Narragansett Bay
  • Fleet includes state of the art
  • Z-drive tractor tug
  • Vessels crewed by licensed
  • merchant mariners


Meet Some of the Dinosaurs:

Sprague Energy

  • Vital supply of home heating oil,
  • diesel fuel, heavy industrial fuel
  • and asphalt to southern New England
  • Sole source of backup fuel to
  • adjacent natural gas fired power plant
  • Highly skilled workforce


What is the Real Issue?

  • The definition of Highest and Best Use:
  • It’s not:
    • Highly skilled and high paying jobs
    • The economic engine to fuel the local and regional economy
  • It is:
  • The one that generates the most taxable real estate for the City!!