The Herald News, Wednesday, May 24, 2017 – Page A12
By Kevin P. O’Connor
Fall River — When your children take their children to the boardwalk, they will see your ideas at work. But you have to act now.
The city’s Redevelopment Authority put up poster boards in city hall with a suggestion box next to them, asking city residents to offer their ideas for the master plan they hope will guide development on the waterfront and downtown for the next 20 years. “We are talking about the future, 10 to 15 years from now, of what the city will look like,” Mayor Jasiel Correia II said. “It is really important that we create the atmosphere of economic development.
“That is what this process is.”
The Redevelopment Authority worked with the Harriman Group of Boston to put together a plan for urban renewal that will guide the city. The plan must be approved by the city Planning Board and the City Council. It will then go to the state Department of Housing and Economic Development for approval.
“If it gets approval, we have a lot more tools available for development,” said William Kenney, the city planner and chair of the Redevelopment Authority. Having an urban renewal designation for those two areas will give the Redevelopment Authority the ability to issue bonds, borrow money, take property through eminent domain, lease property, recommend zoning changes and assemble parcels to make up a larger lot to aid development. “We have not had an urban renewal effort for decades,” Kenney said. “The reason for that is, largely, funding. “The Redevelopment Authority is poor. But we’ve had an influx of money lately with land sales to Amazon and others.”
The posters and the suggestion box will be in the atrium at Government Center until June 6, according to Emily Innes, a senior urban planner with the Harriman Group.
“We are looking for public input,” Kenney said. “That is part of this process. Plus, I’m the ultimate suggestion box. People can call me.” His number is 508-676-2561.
Suggestions were plentiful Tuesday. Joseph Carvalho, who led the fight against an LNG plant at Weaver’s Cove, urged the city to take Weaver’s Point by eminent domain. Todd Rego suggested moving the train tracks to the level of Davol Street so the waterfront would be more connected to the rest of the city. Patrick Norton from the Narrows Center for the Arts asked that the city do more to collect litter on waterfront streets and suggested getting the state to move its salt sheds from the waterfront to the site of the city’s former incinerator.
Kenney said he hoped to get the plan to the state by September to allow planning to start before the state finishes its plans for improvements to Route 79 from the Cove Restaurant to the new bridge carrying Route 6 to Somerset.
Ken Fiola, the executive vice president for the Fall River Office of Economic Development, noted that the last urban renewal plan for the waterfront called for the state to rebuild Route 79 to open up the area for commercial and recreational development.
“The urban renewal plans will set the course of development for the next 20 years,” he said. “The Route 79 plans emerged 20 years ago. We kept that initiative alive and we finally convinced this administration to fund it.
“It doesn’t happen fast, but sometimes, it does happen.”