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Council OKs Hotel Projects, Dollar Tree Move, Homes at Rhodes Building Site

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Attorney Joseph Shekarchi, also also House Majority Leader and Democratic representative of Dist. 23, presents a petition for a zoning change allowing Dollar Tree to build a new store on Warwick Avenue near Atlantic Avenue during the Feb. 25 City Council meeting.

WARWICK, RI — Monday night’s Warwick City Council meeting was a good one for Station District boosters, for Ward 2, and a bad one for rats.

The night began with approval of two zoning changes, madeby separate petitioners, each represented by attorney Joseph Shekarchi, also

House Majority Leader and Democratic representative of Dist. 23.

First was a zoning change allowing the Dollar Tree retail chain to build a new building where old boarded-up buildings currently stand on Warwick Avenue, across Atlantic Avenue, from the CVS store. The petition was brought by Shekarchi on behalf of DT Retail Properties, LLC, Sordham Devleopment, LLC, & Expo Realty, LLC.

Shekarchi told the Council the move would bring at least 25 jobs to the city, perhaps as many as 40. The Warwick City Council approved the zoning change from General Business, Office and Residential A-7 to General Business, unanimously.

Next was a zoning change requested by PHM Providence, LLC for lots 294, 295, 296, 297, 298, 319, 322 and 323 on Assessor’s Plat 323 from Warwick Station District – Gateway to Warwick Station District – Intermodal. The change makes way for the company to do a $3 million remodel of the existing Radisson Inn hotel, build a new, “upscale” Italian wine bar in place of the old Legal Seafood location, and build a new $30 million Residence Inn, with 50 full time jobs, nearby.

The development represents at least a $43million investment in the City of Warwick, Shekarchi said. The refurbishedRadisson, which has added 30 full-time jobs under the new ownership of PHM

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Providence, will be on the City’s tax rolls. The property was previously ownedby Johnson and Wales University, which paid little in taxes.

“This is a windfall to our tax coffers,”Shekarchi said, who noted the hotel tax and room tax paid to the city andhospitality association, he said. “This is an economic explosion of allbenefits to the City of Warwick,” Shekarchi said.

“It shows that the City is on the move,” saidCouncilman Steve McAllister.

“This is the kind of development that we want,right in that area of the City,” said Councilman Jeremy Rix, who noted itsproximity to the train station, airport and many parking garages.

Shekarchi credited Councilman Timothy Howe withsetting a positive tone during meetings with Shekarchi and PHM Providencerepresentatives that contributed to their decision to purchase the property.

“This is igniting the Station District,” Shekarchi said, which he said has been stagnant since 1992.

Councilman Ed Ladouceur also credited thecooperation of the Warwick City Council and Mayor Joseph Solomon forencouraging the investment in the Station District.

“How many times have we heard tonight about whathappens when the Council is working united with the corner office? We haven’texperienced this type of energy in many, many years.”

Council President Steve Merolla echoed those sentiments and praised the work of William DePasquale in encouraging the investment, in DePasquale’s dual roles as Planning Director and Chief of Staff for the Mayor.

The Council approved the change unanimously.

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The Council also approved an estimated $325,000 deal with F.H.Fisher Homes to convert the shuttered Rhodes Elementary School into 29single-family houses.

One resident expressed concern for the dangerof displacing rats that may have made their home in the building since it wasshuttered years ago. Hugh A. Fisher, owner of H. A. Fisher Homes, explained anydemolition involves an assessment of pests on site before work begins.

During a break in themeeting, Fisher explained that could mean poisoning or trapping the pests.

“We will address that rightup front,” to remove the pests before construction activity sends them intoother areas, Fisher said.

Later during the meeting,the Council also unanimously passed Rix’s wildlife feeding resolution, which prohibitsfeeding wildlife by throwing feed or food directly on the ground, a practicethat attracts rats, coyotes, and other pests. Feeding birds from elevatedfeeders is allowed in the legislation, as is normal spill from such feeders.

The penalty for the firstoffense within a year is a warning, followed by a $250 fine for a secondoffense, and a third offense would carry a fine of between $50 and $500.

The Council also voted toadd a discussion of the release of funds from a $40 million schoolinfrastructure improvement bond to the March 4 City Council Finance Committeeagenda.

“I can assure you they’renot getting the entire $40 million,” said Ladouceur. He said it’s unlikely thata plan to use so much of those funds in one project or simultaneous projectscould be responsibly and efficiently managed.

“We want to see responsible productivity for that bond money,” Ladouceur said.

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] A map of the proposed Dollar Tree store at the corner of Warwick Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] An artist’s rendering of the proposed Residence Inn building.