Concern growing over Knowledge District commission bill


Concern is growing about a bill at the State House that would create a commission to oversee development of the so-called Knowledge District in Providence.

“We have literally such an opportunity here and I really just want the state to have it be done right and to make sure the checks and balances are in place at the forefront,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

The removal of the old Interstate 195 provides the opportunity to create a new waterfront business district, which is seen as critical to the economic development of both the city and the state.

Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio has proposed a commission to coordinate development in the district.

However, city leaders aren’t eager to give up control of zoning and permitting, and the commission would answer to no one.

“They’ve created a new city within the city of Providence,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island.

Backers of the proposed legislation include Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who will make the appointments to the commission, say it will enable quick development.

But it will be development without oversight.

“Do they have to restore the old street grid? Can they build a nuclear power plant there? I don’t know. I don’t know,” Marion said.

The best hope for those who want to change the bill will come in the House, where the speaker, Gordon Fox, represents Providence.

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