Chafee hails I-195 commission legislation


It’s been law for about a month, but surrounded by the state’s top politicians, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed a bill Monday that will forever change about 30 acres of land that used to be under Interstate 195 in Providence.

Lawmakers plan on hauling out stacks of iron and concrete, and transforming the space into a so-called “knowledge district”, spurred by the sciences of colleges and universities and the jobs they could potentially offer.

“So there are a lot of big institutions that provide a ton of jobs in the city that are interested in this and some of these institutions have deep pockets in a time when not a lot of businesses have deep pockets,” said John Marion of the political watchdog group Common Cause.

The new bill not only allows the sale of the land, but establishes a seven-person redevelopment district commission to help oversee the process.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and House Speaker Gordon Fox will recommend a list of names to the governor.

The commissioners will have to be confirmed by the Senate. However, Chafee will have the final word on who is appointed.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and you don’t want to get it wrong. I think the board has to be a mixture that brings different types of expertise, people with banking, land use planning, building, with real estate,” Fox said.

Marion said the public needs to pay attention to see who’s appointed.

“These committee hearings are going to have to occur in public. I hope citizens, groups like ours, and the media all sit up and pay attention when they start meeting to make sure they are in the best interest of everyone,” he said.

Johnson and Wales University is expected to be one of the first buyers of property.

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