Democratic candidates call for development of 195 land

The Interstate 195 land in downtown Providence is ready for development.

New roads and sidewalks are being put in place in downtown Providence where Interstate 195 used to be, but not a bit of the land opened up has seen any construction.

There's a lot of unseen work, too: sewers and telecommunications cables, all underground.

A master permit plan is in place, and the 195 Redevelopment District Commission meets every month. It has solicited proposals for the project, dubbed "The Link," from far and wide.

"The 195 Redevelopment Commission has already approved two proposals to more forward and they are in the due diligence stage readying for Letters of Intent," commission spokeswoman Dyana Koelsch said.

But one candidate, at least, said Monday that what's missing is a leader to accelerate the process.

"We've been talking about this since 2009, but still no leader, no mayor, no governor has said, 'This is a plan for what to do with the land,'" said General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who's seeking the Democratic nomination in the governor's race.

Raimondo said she wants to focus the land on advanced manufacturing. The initial plan was for "meds and eds" -- health care and research institutions.

Providence mayor and candidate Angel Taveras said that goal is being realized in part with the nursing school planned for the old power station nearby.

But he "shares in the frustration of many as to the progress made to date. However, he believes we should stay focused on pushing a medicine and education strategy," said Dawn Bergantino of the Taveras campaign.

Democratic candidate Clay Pell says, "I am hopeful this land will foster economic revival and believe we must continue to move forward with this important task."

Because as long as this land is growing grass, not jobs, it sits as a reminder of how stuck the Rhode Island economy is.

The commission will be looking at another round of proposals on Oct. 15.