The Landing

Central Falls has awarded a contract to Tai-O-Group to redevelop The Landing, an old mill site at the intersection of Broad Street and the Blackstone River near the Cumberland line, into a commercial center with public access to the river.

The plan includes remediation of environmental contaminants on the site, renovation of the historic mill into possible banquet and restaurant facilities and construction of a new commercial building at the corner of Broad and Madeira streets.

“We see it as a welcome center for Central Falls,” Diossa said. “It values the Blackstone River and it is significant.”

The completed site, Diossa suggests, could incorporate a restaurant, brewery and possibly the relocated offices of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. He said people would visit the location for access to the Blackstone River Bikeway and to enjoy canoes and boats on the river.

Commuter Rail Station

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is seeking bids for a developer to design and build a $40-million commuter rail station in Pawtucket that Diossa said would spur economic development and jobs in Pawtucket and Central Falls. The station, expected to open in 2020, would be a stop on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Providence line.

The project includes building two new tracks off the Northeast Corridor, two new platforms and a pedestrian bridge connecting the station to Pine Street and Barton Street.

Diossa said the rail stop would attract new residents and businesses and unlock 1 million square feet of vacant mill space in the two cities.

The money for the project comes from federal and state sources, $3 million in contributions from Pawtucket and Central Falls and $2 million from an anonymous donor, Diossa said.

All three projects have some momentum but they are far from done deals.

As there are with any economic development plan, there are huge challenges ahead. Central Falls is not a wealthy city, and it will take a commitment of public money followed by private investment to turn the plans into reality. And any downturn in the national and regional economies could set back the projects — again.

But it’s encouraging that at a time when cooperation among Rhode Island’s cities and towns is in short supply, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Cumberland have found common interests to push forward an economic agenda.

It’s also good to see cities taking advantage of the state’s strengths. It makes sense to focus on the Blackstone River Valley — one of Rhode Island’s great, unpolished assets that is really one corridor through several communities.

Mayor Diossa gets it. But he also needs to get Rhode Islanders off the highway to take a look at what’s going on and share his vision.

Central Falls can be a destination, not just a place people pass by.

 — John Kostrzewa is the Journal’s assistant managing editor/business, commerce and consumer issues. Reach him at (401) 277-7330 or email jkostrze@providencejournal.com. Follow his posts on facebook.com/JohnKostrzewa or @JohnKostrzewa on Twitter.