ProvPort plans big expansion

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The nonprofit that operates part of the port of Providence is expanding.

The Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) voted Thursday to approve ProvPort’s expansion on 9.3 acres of land on parcel 288, located between the organization’s existing property and Save The Bay, a separate nonprofit that promotes a clean and healthy Narragansett Bay.

Under the terms of the deal, ProvPort will lease the land from the PRA for $140,000 per year until 2036.

“With its deep-water channel, Providence’s industrial port is an under-utilized economic development asset poised for renewed investment,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a prepared statement.“ProvPort’s expansion will help us realize my administration’s ambition to double Providence’s imports and exports and create good-paying, blue-collar jobs on our waterfront.”

In a press release, ProvPort said it plans to spend $1.4 million to prepare the expansion site, a former landfill that has since been capped. It is unclear how the new land will be utilized.

“We believe there are a number of opportunities to bring new tenants to ProvPort with this expansion, which will result in further increased tax payments to the city as well as the opportunity to bring more jobs to Providence’s waterfront,” Paul Moura, chairman of ProvPort’s board of directors, said in a statement.

Often confused with the port work that occurs across the entire Allens Avenue waterfront, ProvPort’s campus is located in the area south of Thurbers Avenue. During the race for mayor last year, independent candidate Buddy Cianci proposed a mixed-use development along the area north of Thurbers Avenue, which is where scrap yards are most visible.

The port of Providence is one of only two deep-waters ports in New England and current Mayor Jorge Elorza has said he wants to double exports from the area within five years. Elorza, who defeated Cianci last year, was a strong supporter of using the entire waterfront strictly for industrial purposes.

ProvPort, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, purchased its campus from the city for $16.4 million in 1994 as part of Providence’s effort to close a projected budget deficit. The organization brought in more than $16 million in 2013, according to its annual IRS Form 990, and reported more than $43 million in total assets and $29.6 million in liabilities. ProvPort CEO William Brody was paid $172,000 in 2013, the document says.

The ProvPort campus currently has eight tenants who are responsible for more than 5,000 full or part-time jobs at the port, according to the study. The tenants include Eukor Auto Carriers, Univar Terminal, Enterprise Products and Terminals, Lehigh Terminal, Schnitzer Northeast, Washington Mills, NE Petroleum and Morton Salt.

An economic development study released earlier this year by ProvPort said terminal services on the port have led to more than 1,700 jobs and $211 million in economic output while generating roughly $11 million in state and local tax contributions since 1994. Economic output includes wages, goods and services.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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