MY FINAL PAWSOX PITCH
The PawSox and the city of Pawtucket are losing their public relations battle. Alarmingly.
House Speaker Mattiello ominously reports his constituents tell him they, “love the PawSox…want them to stay, but, don’t give them any public money to stay.”
The PawSox and the city have to approach this project from an entirely new creative direction. Their efforts to gin up enthusiasm with artist renderings of nonexistent, nebulous business development near the Apex site is failing. There is no emotional connection.
Time for action. Time for a new collaboration.
An immediate roundtable meeting should be held. The attendees should be; Governor Raimondo, House Speaker Mattiello, Pawtucket Mayor Grebien, Brian Goldner – C.E.O of Hasbro, John J. Bowen – President of Johnson & Wales University, Richard I. Gouse – New England Institute of Technology President, Rosanne Someson – R.I.S.D. President, James A. Procaccianti – C.E.O. of Procaccianti Group, Colin Kane – Principal at the Peregrine Group plus Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan from Brady/Sullivan Properties. Larry Merlo C.E.O. of CVS/Aetna and, of course, Larry Lucchino and the PawSox group.
This group of power brokers should first tour 210 to 270 block of Main Street Pawtucket. While they will see that this stretch contains mostly abandoned or vastly underutilized store fronts , what they should also see is a tremendous opportunity to revive this core of downtown all anchored by the new PawSox stadium just up the hill at the proposed Apex site.
The new line up looks like this.
210 Main Street becomes the Hasbro Experience Store. Hasbro, under relatively new C.E.O Goldner, has expanded from a toy company to an entertainment company deeply immersed in movies and television featuring well known action figures. Hasbro is noticeably attempting to spread its brand , the recent Hasbro Con in Providence is a prime example. At 210 Main Street families can explore the fantastic array of toys, games and videos which are part of the Hasbro brand before they walk up the hill towards Hasbro Stadium new home of the PawSox.
Hungry before or after the game? Fans will flock to The Home Plate the new restaurant operated by the students and faculty from Johnson & Wales University at the beautiful marble clad old Fleet Bank Building at 216 Main Street. Students live in micro dorm rooms above the restaurant bringing a youthful demographic back to the city.
The vacant 222 address, former home of the Newport School of Hairdressing, has morphed into the Giga Place, a new concept store which specializes in the repair, upgrading and reselling of all things digital brought to you by the New England Institute of Technology. Once again, young entrepreneurs will live in newly modified living spaces above their store.
The W.T. Grant Building at 250 Main Street provided fond memories for generations of Rhode Islanders during its initial incarnation. The interior is now divided into smaller sections perfect for R.I.S.D. to open an artist co-op featuring the wares of their talented students.
Merlo could spearhead a new CVS/Aetna wellness center at 268 Main Street. Certainly much needed with the closing of Memorial Hospital.
To Pawtucket’s credit there has been some positive development lately, micro-breweries, artist lofts and craft work shops have recently opened. However, these are all on the periphery of downtown.
Is my vision aggressive? Will it require many new collaborations? Yes, but, the pieces are in place. Johnson & Wales, R.I.S.D., New England Tech and Hasbro have all greatly expanded in recent decades adding great value to Providence, East Greenwich and Pawtucket. Brady Sullivan Properties has already established itself in Pawtucket and look at what the Procaccianti Group accomplished with the derelict Sockanosset Boys School in creating the Chapel View complex in Cranston. The PawSox themselves have committed to 50,000 square feet of new development.
We need all of these entities together to expand the goal from saving the PawSox to saving Pawtucket.
There is a certain vocal segment of people, Mattielo met many of them, who are pure obstructionist who would say “no” to a deal of 90% PawSox funding and just 10% of public money. Their mantra is “not one dime of my money.”
However, there is also, I truly believe, a majority out there who would love to see a renewed Pawtucket as well as saving the PawSox.
We lose the PawSox, Pawtucket continues to struggle and the rusting pyramid atop the Apex store corrodes and collapses.
– END –
Jim Raftus grew up in Pawtucket and now lives in Cumberland.