This week’s Providence Business News features a profile of Providence Working Waterfront Alliance member Sims Metal Management and their extensive metals recycling operation in Rhode Island.
Bill Huling, director of New England operations for Sims Metal Management, stepped back as another dump truck banged off the roll-on scales, reversed up to a three-story mound of broken metal chunks and, with the crash of a building collapse, dropped several additional tons at its foot.
Desolate-looking behind a security fence and the wall of scrap from the Allens Avenue pavement, Sims’ Providence harbor-front export terminal was reverberating with activity and the rattle of cascading iron on a frigid November Friday.
“They’re getting ready for the ship to come in,” Huling said, as a gust blew a mix of metal dust and marine-paint fumes at the workers attending to the scrap pile.
The ship was the Falcon Trader II, a 623-foot long Filipino-flagged freighter that would arrive two days later and spend the Thanksgiving holiday being stuffed by longshoremen with ferrous metal.
PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
The Providence Working Waterfront Alliance is strongly opposed to candidate Vincent Cianci’s so called “waterfront plan,” which is little more than a rehashing of the failed Narragansett Landing plan released by Mr. Cianci some 15 years ago. Put simply, this “plan” threatens hundreds of good paying blue collar jobs and over a thousand related jobs provided by water-dependent and industrial businesses along the Allens Avenue corridor in the Port of Providence. Hotels, condominiums, and recreational marinas are simply incompatible with the heavy industrial character of our neighborhood.
Mixed use means densely clustering compatible uses. It does not mean placing obviously conflicting uses directly next to each other. For example, locating a hotel or condominium directly in-between an oil terminal, an asphalt plant, and a major metals recycling export and marine repair facility. Hotel guests and/or residents would surely complain about the loud noises and 24-hour operations of directly adjacent industrial businesses. This in turn would lead to pressure to place restrictions on these businesses, thus threatening their ability to operate.
While the only “mixed use” project in the area went bankrupt in 2010, the industrial businesses on Allens Avenue have thrived and attracted tens of millions of dollars in investment. This has been made possible by the strong industrial zoning passed by the Providence City Council and signed into law by Mayor Angel Taveras in August.
Rather than threaten our area with clearly incompatible uses, Providence city government should work to promote, market, and grow our industrial working waterfront. A unique asset that supplies good paying blue collar jobs and the critical commodities that power our region’s economy.
In an editorial in Sunday’s paper, the Providence Journal praises Mayor Angel Taveras and the City Council for adopting strong zoning protections for Providence’s working waterfront and nearby industrial businesses.
Port with potential
One of the precious assets of Rhode Island, with a marvelous capacity to help our economy grow, is Providence’s deepwater port. Various schemes have been proposed to turn it into a playground for developers, something that would ludicrously squander its potential. But Providence leaders in recent days have taken some historic steps to make sure that does not happen.
Mayor Angel Taveras has signed into law an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to protect the waterfront as a working port, rather than permit it to be developed as condos, marinas and the like. Mr. Taveras, City Council President Michael Solomon and others worked hard to protect the working waterfront along the Allens Avenue corridor from the Hurricane Barrier to ProvPort.
“Hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs are based right here in the industrial waterfront of Providence,” the mayor said in a statement. “This amendment paves the way for the creation of more high-paying blue-collar jobs, brings the zoning ordinance into compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan, and sends a clear signal to companies worldwide that Providence is dedicated to supporting its industrial and working waterfront businesses.”
Many communities hungry for jobs would love to have the remarkable infrastructure that Providence has: a deep-water channel with rail and highway access. The port is responsible for an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic impact for the region. Each year, more than 2,000 ships unload such materials as salt (to keep our roads safe in winter), cement, asphalt and home heating oil, and load up with recycled metal for international markets. Some 9 million tons of cargo pass through the port annually.
And the future looks brighter. With the expansion of the Panama Canal permitting bigger vessels to pass through to Eastern ports, Providence is well positioned for perhaps dramatic growth. Meanwhile, all three of the leading Democratic candidates for mayor — Mr. Solomon, Jorge Elorza and Brett Smiley — recognize the importance of expanding the port’s business and creating more good-paying, blue-collar jobs, with thousands of related jobs (tradesmen, truck drivers, service technicians, and the like).
Under the zoning changes, residential, hotel and other mixed uses that are inappropriate for this heavy industrial area are now prohibited. That should give businesses the confidence to invest in the port area and grow. It is the port, after all, with its deepwater channel and industrial zoning, that inspired Sims Metal Management to invest $70 million locating its export facility on Allens Avenue with a shredder facility in Johnston. Look for more in the years ahead, particularly if the next Rhode Island governor moves aggressively with House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to create a more robust economy.
In a recent New England Diary post author / blogger Robert Whitcomb praises Mayor Angel Taveras for adopting strong industrial zoning to protect Providence’s working waterfront from incompatible mixed uses.
Laud Taveras for helping to protect Providence’s working waterfront
All hail Providence Mayor Angel Taveras for signing an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to protect Providence’s working waterfront and port from being ruined by developers’ plans for condos and restaurants.
The port and industrial uses of the waterfront are what actually increase the region’s wealth, not speculative, property-flipping condo and other real-estate developers and low-paying “hospitality industry” jobs, many of which are highly seasonal. The area desperately needs the steady and well-paying “blue-collar elite” jobs provided by a working waterfront and port.
We have enough restaurants. We need a real economy.
The press release below was issued by Mayor Angel Taveras to announce the signing of a zoning ordinance to protect Providence’s working waterfront and nearby industrial businesses.
Mayor Taveras Signs Landmark Zoning Amendment to Protect Providence’s Working Waterfront
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Mayor Angel Taveras today announced that he has signed into law a landmark amendment to the Capital City’s Zoning Ordinance to protect the working waterfront and prime the corridor for further job growth.
The amendment to Chapter 27 of the Ordinances of City of Providence changes zoning regulations to protect industrial and working waterfront uses along the Allens Avenue corridor from the Hurricane Barrier to ProvPort. The amendment was signed into law on July 24, 2014.
Mayor Taveras, City Council President Michael Solomon and business leaders who long advocated for the change said the amendment is expected to provide stability to area businesses.
“Hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs are based right here in the industrial waterfront of Providence,” said Mayor Taveras. “This amendment paves the way for the creation of more high-paying blue-collar jobs, brings the Zoning Ordinance into compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and sends a clear signal to companies worldwide that Providence is dedicated to supporting its industrial and working waterfront businesses.”
“The Port of Providence is one of our greatest economic assets, and the maritime industries and manufacturers along Allens Avenue demonstrate that Providence has a thriving working waterfront,” said Council President Solomon. “The updated zoning enacted by the City Council and Mayor protects these uses, and supports the City’s vision to expand manufacturing and industries that utilize our port and deep water access to create good-paying jobs and grow our economy.”
“The Providence Working Waterfront Alliance deeply appreciates the leadership of Mayor Taveras and the City Council in passing strong industrial zoning to protect the good paying blue collar jobs and critical resources that our area provides for the city, state, and wider region,” said Ellis Waldman, owner of Walco Electric and Chairman of the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance. “With this zoning in place, our businesses can continue to grow and take advantage of the port area’s deep water channel, rail, and highway access. These are precisely the unique infrastructure assets we should be investing in and promoting to grow Rhode Island’s economy.”
According to executives at Moran Shipping Agencies, a 77-year old Providence company and world leader in shipping husbandry, more than 90 percent of the world’s cargo is moved by water-borne transportation, vessels are getting larger and deeper in draft for economies of scale, and with the expansion of the Panama Canal, our port is well-poised for expansion.
“Our deep-water port just a few miles off the marine super highway provides Providence’s working waterfront and nearby industrial businesses access to capturing hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic impact,” said Gavin R. Black, in-house Admiralty counsel for Moran Shipping. “The port supplies the region’s energy, provides hundreds of good paying blue collar jobs, and thousands more related jobs. As the largest independently owned and operated steamship agency in North America today, we are a proud part of Rhode Island’s rich maritime heritage and deeply appreciate the leadership of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and City Council President Michael Solomon, who understand the need to maintain industrial zoning for our working waterfront.”
The Providence Working Waterfront Alliance deeply appreciates the leadership of Mayor Angel Taveras and the City Council in passing strong industrial zoning to protect the good paying blue collar jobs and critical resources that our area provides for the city, state, and wider region. With this zoning in place, our businesses can continue to grow and take advantage of the port area’s deep water channel, rail, and highway access. These are precisely the unique infrastructure assets we should be investing in and promoting to grow Rhode Island’s economy. — Ellis Waldman, Chairman, Providence Working Waterfront Alliance
At a hearing before the City Council’s Ordinance Committee, the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance testified in favor of an ordinance to maintain and strengthen industrial zoning on Allens Avenue to protect the area’s marine and heavy industrial businesses. Below is the formal letter of support submitted by the Alliance:
On behalf of the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance (PWWA), I write today in strong support of the petition to amend the Official Zoning Ordinance of the City of Providence by changing the text of Section 303, the Use Table, W-3 and M-2 Zones only, and the text of Appendix A, to protect working waterfront and industrial businesses along the Allens Avenue Corridor.
Providence’s working waterfront and nearby industrial businesses generate hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic impact, supply the region’s energy, provide hundreds of good paying blue collar jobs, and thousands more related jobs. This vital regional economic resource must be protected from incompatible uses.
That is why for the past 7 years, the members of the PWWA have worked closely with the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the Planning Department to convey the importance of protecting Allens Avenue’s water-dependent and heavy industrial businesses from the threat of incompatible mixed-use residential and hotel development. Put simply, these uses are inappropriate in our heavy industrial neighborhood.
We were therefore pleased to see the City Council pass and Mayor Angel Taveras sign into law Providence Tomorrow, the City’s official Comprehensive Plan which calls for maintaining industrial zoning in our area.
Since passage of the Providence Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan, we have worked closely with the Planning Department to develop a zoning ordinance that implements and is consistent with the plan. The ordinance before you will accomplish this by maintaining and strengthening the W-3 and M-2 industrial zones along the Allens Avenue Corridor.
After many years of uncertainty, now is the time to finalize the zoning for Allens Avenue’s working waterfront and heavy industrial businesses. I ask that you support this ordinance which will provide area businesses with the certainty they need to invest in and grow their businesses.
With storm after storm during a tough 2014 winter, the Providence Journal reports that many Rhode Island municipalities are running out of road salt. But thanks to our deep-water channel, the Port of Providence is set to receive a resupply vessel around March 1st. Another example of Providence’s working waterfront providing critical commodities that power our region’s economy.
Photo Credit: The Providence Journal/ Frieda Squires
John Everson: Thriving waterfront belies attack
Patrick Conley’s letter of Jan. 24 (“Solomon hypocritical about ‘openness’ ”), blaming everyone but himself for his failed “Providence Piers” project, is filled with factual errors and near slanderous allegations. It is fair to say that his claims are as bankrupt as his project.
Mr. Conley inaccurately states that the City Council’s Ordinance Committee never held a public hearing on his proposal to rezone Allens Avenue’s industrial working waterfront to allow for an incompatible mixed-use hotel and marina fantasyland smack in the middle of an oil terminal, an asphalt plant, and a commercial repair shipyard. In fact, the Ordinance Committee held two public hearings in June 2010, where a majority of attendees spoke against his plan and in favor of maintaining strong industrial zoning to protect the area’s heavy industrial businesses.
Mr. Conley next conjures up a wild conspiracy theory regarding the sale of State Pier No. 1 by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to the former Promet Marine, claiming that the Federal Bureau of Investigation should open an investigation into the transaction. The first place the FBI can look to is the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which in March 2008 handed down a decision (Tidewater Realty v. State of Rhode Island et al.) requiring DEM to sell the property to Promet Marine, which had previously leased the land from the state. In that case, the court found that the Providence Redevelopment Agency had improperly taken the property out from under Promet, which had initially bid for and signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the state for the land.
Three years later, Promet sold its deep-water pier facility to Sims Metal Management, the largest publicly traded metals recycling company in the world. Sims has since invested millions of dollars in the property, creating new jobs and turning the pier into a world-class export facility. Sims made this investment precisely because of the property’s access to our 40-foot deepwater channel and industrial zoning.
As the owner of Narragansett Improvement, which has operated on Allens Avenue for over 120 years, I deeply appreciate the leadership of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and City Council President Michael Solomon, who understand the need to maintain industrial zoning for our working waterfront.
While Mr. Conley’s ill-conceived project has gone under, the industrial businesses on Allens Avenue continue to thrive, providing hundreds of good-paying blue-collar jobs, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic impact, and providing resources like oil heat, gasoline, asphalt and road salt that power our region’s economy.
John Everson is the owner of Narragansett Improvement and a founding member of the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance.
Today’s Providence Journal features a story on the large number of Rhode Island households that depend on home heating oil to stay warm during cold winters like the one we are currently experiencing. The vast majority of heating oil is supplied via tanker ships to terminals in the Port of Providence including Sprague Energy, Capital Terminal, and These terminals then supply a network of home heating oil distributors who deliver the product to homes across the state and wider region.
This is all made possible by our 40ft deep-water shipping channel and industrial zoning to protect the port’s terminals.
Another example of the role Providence’s working waterfront plays in powering our economy and providing the region with critical energy resources.
In a Providence Journal letter to the editor, Irving Sheldon argues that scrap is an important generator of economic activity. Indeed, scrap is Rhode Island’s largest export thanks to the Port of Providence’s deep-water channel, a key economic asset for Rhode Island and the region.
One man’s trash . . .
In her Oct. 23 letter, Theresa Quigley complains of the “junkyard” on the Providence waterfront. I don’t believe this is junk: It is valuable scrap metal which has been collected and will be loaded on ships, an important generator of economic activity.
Irving C. Sheldon
According to a report by the Business Roundtable, Rhode Island ranked 10th in the nation with $641 million in scrap exports in 2012. These scrap exports are made possible by Providence’s deep water channel and industrial zoning for our working waterfront, a key economic asset for Providence, Rhode Island, and the wider region.
Providence Business News photo. Pictured: Sims Metal Management operation on Allens Avenue in the Port of Providence.
Saturday’s Providence Journal editorial compliments Mayor Angel Taveras and Providence Economic Development Director James Bennett for recognizing the value of the city’s working waterfront:
Saving Providence’s port
The dream of hotels, condos, shops and restaurants along Providence’s waterfront made for pretty pictures. But it’s a good thing that local business and political leaders stuck with keeping this area a working port – helping to maintain Rhode Island’s maritime industry and hundreds of high-paying blue-collar jobs.
There are more than enough pretty places in Rhode Island – and indeed Providence – to exploit for tourism and condo development without destroying one of the region’s key economic assets.
Mayor Taveras deserves credit for dropping the attempt of previous mayors to rezone the Allens Avenue area for extensive mixed use, something that would almost certainly have brought in condo/ hospitality business developers (and campaign contributors) while putting less glitzy (but much better-paying ) existing businesses at risk. City officials now plan to add only office development to the mix for the port area. The financial crash was aided and abetted by grotesque over-development of condos. Let’s get back to real, broad-based-wealth creators — trade, manufacturing and technological innovation.
The mayor and his economic-development director, James Ben-nett, clearly understand the importance of industrial jobs and a port infrastructure to Rhode Island’s future. This is a significant competitive advantage that Providence has over landlocked cities of the Mid-west, for instance.
Today’s Providence Journal has an excellent editorial noting the exciting news that Sims Metal Management has purchased Promet Marine. Sims’ investment in Promet’s deep-water pier is clear evidence of the tremendous value of the Allens Avenue working waterfront and the need to maintain industrial zoning to protect this critical state and regional economic asset.
Providence received some good news recently, with the announcement by Sims Metal Management, an international metals and electronics-recycling company, that it has acquired Promet Marine Services on Allens Avenue.
Promet, with a 600-foot pier served by rail and capable of berthing deep-draft ships, and some nine acres for shore-side operations, has long been a leader in the local marine-trades sector. With the sale, for an undisclosed sum, and the new owner’s intention to retain all current Promet personnel and hire more over the coming months, our marine industry seems stronger than ever, and likely to play a growing role in the city’s economy.
Scrap is in high demand in many markets around the world. Sims’s entry into the region should translate into higher prices for scrap from area manufacturers, helping them to hire more workers and reinvest capital.
This is the kind of development the Ocean State needs. It also speaks to the wisdom of having dredged the badly silted Providence River channel, in 2004.
The Providence Journal has an editorial noting the “sweet sound of scrap” being loaded onto ships in the Port of Providence, and why port operations should be protected from incompatible hotel and condo uses which inevitably result in resident noise complaints about heavy industrial activity:
The biggest export from the Port of Providence is scrap metal, all part of the noble, and in this instance profitable, effort to recycle what we discard. In recent days two large ships at the port have been loading scrap, and clanging has reverberated across the Providence River as hoppers suspended from huge cranes have been swung out over the ships to drop tons of the stuff into their cavernous holds, raising clouds of rust-colored dust.
It’s exciting to watch, and the sound should be music to the ears of residents of a region coming out of a long recession. The more activity in our commercial sector, the less we will have to extract from taxpayers to upgrade infrastructure and pay pensions.
Still, that doesn’t stop people from complaining, and underscores the danger of locating condos and hotels near the port, which would only increase the complaints. But the complainants are not totally devoid of our sympathy. Maybe if they had some peace and quiet they could study economics.