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Providence, RI - Rhode Island has been plagued with persistently high unemployment rates and low per capita incomes in certain areas within the City of Providence as a result of a continuing decline in manufacturing and the transformation of the region’s economy into newer, technology-oriented industries that have left many people behind, especially within the city’s significant minority communities. While the region’s economy has evolved, there remains a critical need to provide economic opportunities at all skill levels to address those pockets of poverty and economic dislocation. The availability of a city-owned, environmentally remediated industrial site within a poverty-stricken neighborhood provided such an opportunity, and was consistent with the Providence New Food Cluster Strategy and its strategic plan. It was also responsive to private sector interests in developing a hub facility for food production, processing and distribution as well as other appropriate commercial and small scale industrial operations.
In May 2017, EDA invested $600,000 in Public Works funds to the City of Providence to fund new public infrastructure allowing access to the Houghton Street property and to provide the utility services needed for food production, processing, and other complementary commercial and light industrial operations. The 9.8-acre parcel was the site of a large industrial facility that burned and was demolished in 2000, and subsequently acquired by the Providence Redevelopment Agency and environmentally remediated in 2014. The property was made available for commercial use in 2017, though it was not served by an adequate roadway or utilities. The city’s vision was to promote the site for the development of a commercial food hub that would accommodate production, processing, packaging and distribution for multiple businesses, several of which had expressed interest in the property but would not invest due to the lack of access and infrastructure.
The project includes the extension of the Houghton Street roadway, sewer, water and gas service to the site, and will support private investment and job creation within the community consistent with the Providence New Food Cluster Strategy. The City’s analysis of regional food manufacturing enterprises indicates the potential for one job per 600 square feet of production facilities, or about 360 jobs when the site is fully developed and occupied. Additionally, the city expects more than $25,000,000 in private investment in the development of the approximately 20,000 square foot food hub building.