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Glenark deal draws City Council ire

November 27, 2012

WOONSOCKET — Members of the City Council had plenty to say about the potential loss of a $200,000 city loan owed by the 67-unit Glenark Landing housing complex Monday night, but also admitted that any fight regarding their concerns would be best taken to the General Assembly.
The discussion of the Glenark’s takeover by the Rhode Island Housing agency and potential foreclosure on Friday came during a council work session in the panel’s second floor meeting room at City Hall and included a number of council jabs that the agency was again hitting city taxpayers in their pocketbooks.
The foreclosure by Rhode Island Housing, which has a first position over the city in the current owner’s outstanding financing, could wipe out the city’s claim to its long unpaid loan.
Mayor Leo T. Fontaine also sounded alarm over the potential loss of city tax revenues even while explaining what he and members of the administration suggested would be compensating economic benefits from Rhode Housing’s redevelopment plans for the Glenark by a new owner.
The city could get a payment of $200,000 on the approximate $700,000 in loan payments and penalty fees it has outstanding from the $200,000 contribution it made to Glenark’s redevelopment in 1988, according to Fontaine and his directors. But it would also potentially lose half of $86,000 in tax revenue it currently receives from the Glenark, Fontaine offered.
“At the end of the day, we basically end up getting the short end of the stick,” Fontaine said.
City Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik, addressing the Glenark quandary along with local Housing Director Paulette Miller, was more supportive of the Rhode Island Housing proposal for the historic Glenark building along the Blackstone River at Market Square. Wojcik suggested that the prospective new owner could ultimately improve the area’s attractiveness to working class families.
The potential new owner, Trinity Financial of Boston, plans to spend $4.8 million on acquisition and redevelopment of the Glenark and a smaller subsidized local housing development, the 22-unit Ashley Court, he said.
“When I look at the Glenark, I see it as the gateway to Main Street,” he said. People living in a renovated and upscaled Glenark would be customers for businesses in the Market Square and Main Street business district, he explained.

Read more in our print edition.

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