WOONSOCKET – An unidentified national chain store is offering $500,000 to purchase Ayotte Field, located at the busy city line intersection of Providence Street and Great Road in North Smithfield.
City Economic Development Director Matthew Wojcik said the offer was tendered recently by a representative of the real estate firm Hayes & Sherry, who declined to identify the prospective buyer.
The City Council tabled a resolution about two weeks ago that would have given Mayor-elect Lisa Baldelli-Hunt the authority to promptly begin negotiating the sale, according to Wojcik. The idea of the resolution was to keep the negotiations moving without interruption as the new administration takes over. Even though the measure was tabled, Wojcik says the offer is very much alive.
He also thinks it may be also be sign of things to come as the local retail universe increasingly moves toward the orbit of North Smithfield’s Dowling Village. At the same time, big chain stores appear to be less interested in the city’s traditional retail zone in East Woonsocket, which has lost Walmart, Lowe’s, Staples, and other vendors in the last two years or so.
Ayotte Field consists of about two acres in an area that is already bustling with restaurants and a hodgepodge of small businesses.
“Everybody knows that this lot is primed for development,” said Wojcik. “Especially with Dowling Village on line, traffic counts are up. This is a good corner.”
This isn’t the first time Ayotte Field has been on the market. Ironically, in 2008, the mayor-elect, a real estate investor, made an offer on the field, which she later withdrew.
Richard Baccari of Churchill & Banks, a large commercial real estate developer, later offered $1.1 million for the property, but that was withdrawn as well.
One issue that’s kept the deal from coming to fruition has been the city’s desire to replace the field, which is used by the Northern Bernon Little League. Back in 2008, the asking price included at least part of the cost for building a replacement field somewhere else in the city.
Wojcik said the city shouldn’t back down from seeking perks for the little league as part of the asking price now. He said the cost should recognize the efforts that little league volunteers made to build dugouts and a concession stand at the field.
“There shouldn’t be a deal unless there are acceptable provisions for a facility,” said Wojcik. “Those volunteers raised a lot of money to build those dugouts and the concession stand.”
Thanks to prior efforts to sell the property, some of the work to pave the way for retail development at the site has already been done. The land used to be zoned for recreational use only, but those restrictions have been lifted to allow commercial properties.
Even if the city decides to sell the parcel, procurement rules would prohibit the city from making a direct transaction with the prospective buyer. The land would have to be conveyed via public auction in an open bidding process, according to Wojcik. In all likelihood, a new appraisal of the parcel would have to be performed in order for the city to calculate a minimum bid close to the true market value of the property.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo