Following the November 2014 statewide referenda in which Rhode Island voters approved the most sweeping package of investments in smart growth and community revitalization since Grow Smart’s founding, the 2015 General Assembly continued the momentum. By enacting a number of promising new initiatives – including Governor Raimondo’s bold economic comeback agenda – and staving off radical attempts to undermine our state’s well-regarded community planning system, the General Assembly set the table for continued economic growth by playing more effectively to Rhode Island’s many strengths.
Brookings Economic Development Plan unveiled
The R.I. Economic Development Planning Council adopted a new Brookings Institution report as the state’s official long-term strategy for economic development. A 17-member body created in 2013, held multiple meetings with the Brookings team as it conducted its six-month study. In addition to prioritizing seven growth industries and improving the state’s business climate, the plan includes several smart growth oriented priorities for building upon our existing place-based strengths. Grow Smart has provided input to the Brookings team throughout development of the plan. Under state law, the plan has been forwarded to House and Senate leaders, who are required to hold a public hearing on it before the governor can grant final approval.
Read Projo editorial about Brookings Report.
Brownfield regulatory reform
Under the leadership of the Environmental Business Council of Rhode Island (EBC-RI) and the Pawtucket based environmental consulting firm Resources Controls, Grow Smart has been an active member of an informal working group developing a set of Brownfield regulatory reform recommendations for RIDEM and the Raimondo Administration. The objective of the working group’s reform proposals is to increase the predictability and speed of the Brownfield redevelopment process in RI, and thus reduce the cost and risk of taking on any of these inherently challenging projects. The recommendations include consolidating three separate sets of regulations governing clean-up of RI Brownfield sites into one set of regulations; getting clean up rules, regulations and applications available on-line, and exploring the development of a Licensed Site Professional program to streamline the Brownfield site discovery, investigation and closure process in RI.
Incentives Regs adopted, Applications now coming online
Commerce RI has developed and approved the regulations for a suite of smart growth-oriented tools and incentives designed to jump-start Rhode Island’s economic resurgence. Descriptions of the new programs and the governing regulations (and select applications) are now available HERE. Click HERE to see a sample excerpt from the Re-Build RI project application criteria pertaining to transit-oriented development.
Commerce Secretary Briefs Grow Smart RI Supporters
Commerce RI Secretary Stefan Pryor met with supporters of Grow Smart RI on October 14th for a briefing about Governor Raimondo’s WAVE program, the new suite of smart growth-oriented economic development tools and incentives approved by the General Assembly in June, 2015.
Governor’s Economic Comeback Agenda Budget Article 19 Sub A| Passed
Lawmakers approved Governor Raimondo’s nearly $100 million proposal for an aggressive set of economic development tools, including several smart growth-oriented strategies aimed at strengthening Rhode Island’s urban, town and village centers and the state’s overall economy, including:
- Rebuild RI Real Estate Tax Credit (Re)development incentive program ($60M over 5 years) partly to be used for attracting private investment to transit-oriented development and redevelopment in our urban & town centers and transit corridors.
- Rhode Island Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Innovative financing program that prioritizes development in smart growth locations by allowing a portion of newly generated state sales and income taxes generated by a project to help support its development over a defined period of time.
- Tax Stabilization Incentive providing reimbursement to municipalities of up to 10% when entering into qualified property tax stabilization agreements (TSA’s) for projects that would largely meet what we would consider to be efficient, smart growth criteria that serve the public interest.
- I-195 Redevelopment Fund $25M incentive fund designed to spur and attract anchor employers and institutions to the planned innovation hub near Downtown Providence on the former highway land.
- Main Street Rhode Island Streetscape Improvement Fund A good first effort ($1M) for awarding loans, matching grants and other forms of financing to municipalities to enhance the attractiveness of our urban and town centers.
- RI New Qualified Jobs Incentive Program Provides tax credits to eligible businesses, including incentives for new job creation in transit-oriented development areas.