WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s a project almost two decades in the making. The runway expansion at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick is now about a year away from completion, and it’s clear there have been some growing pains along the way.
The expansion plans have always been tied into future economic growth, not only for Warwick but for Rhode Island as a whole. That growth comes at a price – in the loss of homes and businesses in the area. But, some of the nearby business owners who chose not to relocate tell Eyewitness News they’re finally seeing the signs of a runway recovery now.
Dr. James Devanney is the owner of one of those businesses who chose to stay put. His dental practice has been a mainstay on Main Ave. since 1961. While his building received soundproofing windows a few months ago, his new noise battle is with the reconstruction of Main Ave. right outside. Crews are currently rerouting the street to make way for an expanded runway.
“The place, I mean it really shakes,” says Devanney. “When they were doing steamrollers in the back. But again, I can call the airport and they actually try to change it to work on a day that we’re not here.”
The conversation started to shift to consideration several years ago when Mayor Scott Avedisian, along with the city council and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, finally agreed to shorten the original proposed length of the runway down to 8,700 feet.
“Originally 600 homes had to be taken,” says Mayor Avedisian. “500 would have been bought out. But we got down to 200 being bought out. So single family homes was the worst part. The second worst was knowing for everyone that expansion, this time, is the last time.”
Warwick businesses like Devanney’s wanted the same assurances. The city’s tax rolls took a big hit with the loss of property taxes from the acquired homes, and there was a significant loss of businesses over the years of construction. “There were over 100 over time,” says Avedisian. “This past time, [there were] over 18.”
The city has worked to help some of those businesses relocate. They’ve also tried to work with others bordering the new runway who chose to stay. “If Doctor Devanney stays,” says Avedisian, “it’s income producing property for him, and for us, and it’s a natural buffer to the new property.”
The mayor also says the city is hoping to seize new opportunities for growth, as parcels of land along Airport Road, Post Road, and even Strawberry Field Road will be open for development or re-zoned to try and recoup some of the crucial tax dollars that have been lost during this long period of airport growth.
“They’ve talked about opening this up to business,” says Devanney, gesturing to Main Ave outside his office windows. “They can’t have homes here, so it would be great to replace the 480 homes that they’ve taken, which has been tough on the practice too.”
Mayor Avedisian’s outlook for the area is an optimistic one. “I look at where we were to where we are,” says the Mayor. “with all of the uncertainty and the construction done and more hotels already being planned and City Centre Warwick coming along, I think it’s going to be a really bright and promising future here.”
Construction on the new Main Avenue is expected to wrap up by the end of July. It’s expected that planes will begin taking off and landing on the expanded runway sometime next year.