The Town Council and developers of the "Middletown Center" okay a new Citizens Advisory Committee to provide input on the proposed mixed use project at 600-740 West Main Road. #MiddletownCenter #MiddletownRI
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NEW ADVISORY COMMITTEE FORMED
TO ASSIST WITH “MIDDLETOWN CENTER” DESIGN
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AUGUST 3, 2022) – There are literally hundreds — if not thousands — of different design elements part of “Middletown Center.”
To give the town and its residents even more say over the proposed mixed use development, a new Middletown Center Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was recently created by the Town Council.
The idea of residents Karen Barbera and Melissa Welch, the goal is to help shape the landscaping, look and elements to give the proposal at 600-740 West Main Road even more of a Middletown feel.
Applications to serve on the seven-member committee are now being accepted at the Town Clerk’s office and at https://mdl.town/Volunteer online.
“The purpose of a CAC would be to create a forum where people can offer ideas, make suggestions and explore possibilities, particularly regarding the municipal spaces for the project,” Welch said at a prior meeting. “For example, the proposed tower on the corner of West Main and Coddington, we’ve come up with a design modeled after a windmill that actually stood on West Main Road back in the 1800s.”
“This committee could help facilitate the outcome of the overall look, feel and use of the open space as well as help fulfill the goals of the project,” Barbera said previously. “It is very important that it should feel authentic to Middletown, not a cookie cutter, generic development that could be anywhere in any state. The group could help develop a place that draws people to it, that functions by the thoughtful use of space in its buildings and grounds as the community center that all residents can enjoy.”
The town and the Middletown Center development team are in the process of negotiating a ground lease and other specifics for the future use of the 15-acre site between Coddington Highway and Valley Road.
Local officials have said if the project is developed, it would bring some much needed revenue from the land, which hasn’t generated a nickel in taxes since at least World War II. That’s true even though the site is in the heart of Middletown’s commercial district.
They’ve also spoken highly of the new housing, spaces for small businesses and construction of a new public library, which is envisioned on the northern part of the site.
Town Solicitor Peter B. Regan said he spoke with Girard Galvin about the Citizens Advisory Committee recently and the attorney was firmly on board with the concept. Galvin represents Christopher Bicho, James Karam and Rocky Kempenaar, the local development group the town teamed up with to reuse the “Middletown Center” property.
Regan said there were no announcements yet regarding the negotiations around “Middletown Center,” but talks were ongoing.
Previously, Barbera and Welch said the CAC could serve as a clearinghouse for residents to air their constructive ideas about what they’d like to see aesthetically from “Middletown Center.”
They were both clear the CAC would not interfere with the current planning work happening at the Middletown Public Library. However, they said if the library wanted help designing the space out front of its new proposed location to act as a “gateway” to the facility, they were ready to help.
“We realize the library staff is already thinking about what’s needed for a new library and we would not seek to duplicate their efforts, but we would hope to share ideas with them and coordinate our approaches,” Welch said.
Ideally, the CAC would act as a clearinghouse for ideas from residents. They said the group could also channel that information to the town, the developers and serve as a preliminary focus group. They also said the CAC could work to secure grant money to help pay for add-ons to the “Middletown Center” project and similar efforts.
“The use of the words ‘town center’ sets the space up for very broad public expectations,” Barbera said. “We are more than likely not going to fill everyone’s needs and visions, but it can absolutely be a wonderful community gathering space if we the residents work together with the developers on this. We feel that if we succeed in making this one of the major community gathering spaces in our town, then we would have done well.”
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/5437/NYCU-CAC