Johnson: Opportunity Zone Designation Should Help Pawtucket USL Stadium Project

Pawtucket Soccer Stadium rendering December 2019

Federal opportunity zone designation in the area should help a proposed Pawtucket USL stadium development, according to Brett Johnson of Fortuitous Partners, who continues to push the project.

Johnson is leading a $400-million development proposal for downtown Pawtucket, which is headlined by plans for a new 7,500-seat soccer stadium at the site of a former manufactured gas plant along the Seekonk River. The stadium would be home to a USL Championsip club, while anchoring planned development that includes apartments and retail across the river and additional development at the downtown Apex property.

Plans for the project were unveiled to the public in December, and now Johnson is engaging in a due diligence process with Pawtucket and Rhode Island officials. As that due diligence continues, Johnson is making the case that the proposal could have an easier time drawing interest from private developers because much of the land in play for the proposal falls within a designated opportunity zone.

As part of a 2017 overhaul of the tax code at the federal level, investors can receive certain capital gains tax breaks by investing in a designated Opportunity Zone. Backers of opportunity zones have hoped that these incentives can help jump start development and job creation in designated areas, and Johnson feels that the Pawtucket project could present interesting possibilities to prospective investors. More from The Valley Breeze:

“Opportunity zones are an incentive to bring private capital that might not otherwise go into these areas, and start to put shovels in the ground to make things happen,” said Johnson. “In the case of Tidewater Landing, investors in the project will see an added benefit of deferring or reducing taxation on their capital gains over a long period of time. This is also true for a company that chooses to locate their business in an opportunity zone.”

Pawtucket is a perfect example of how opportunity zones were meant to work, Johnson said.

“They have great opportunity in their downtown, riverfront and transit area, but not enough municipal dollars to support redevelopment,” he explained. “Pawtucket already had a vision for the revitalization of their downtown and riverfront area, and ongoing plans to support development, such as the future train station.”…

Opportunity zones are a federal program providing a tax incentive for private investors to direct capital gains into equity investments in qualified projects within designated zones. The incentive is designed to encourage long-term investment, with certain tax benefits kicking in only after maintaining the investment for at least 10 years.

In addition to the stadium, the project would include new apartments and retail across the river as well as offices, a hotel, conference center, and an indoor sports center at the downtown Apex property. The project is expected to call for $70-$90 million in public assistance via tax increment financing, which would primarily go toward covering infrastructure improvements. 

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