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Big box COSTCO, Topgolf, highway expansion bring big change to the “Heart of Cranston”

After years of community concerns and opposition, the area of Cranston often called “the heart of Cranston” will be getting both a Topgolf mega (68,000 sq. ft.) entertainment/golf complex and a COSTCO, side by side. To be located in the sought after “behind Citizens” and “behind Shaws” part of the Chapel View development owned by the Carpionato Group, the group is experiencing two of the largest successes in Rhode Island commercial development in recent years.

Last week, TopGolf was announced, along with the obligatory shovels in the dirt ceremony featuring the Governor, mayor, former mayor, city council and others. Members of the Garden City Alliance, who led the charge to prevent the venue due to its “over-size” for the “boutique experience” of Garden City and Chapel View, were invited and attended the event – but were not mentioned or included in the program.

Yesterday, Gene Valicenti made the COSTCO announcement on his morning radio program on WPRO, citing “solid sources”. After announcing that COSTCO was coming to the Chapel View area, targeted to “behind Shaws and next to Topgolf”, Valicenti interviewed the Director of the RI Department of Transportation, Peter Alviti, who talked about the development with familiarity, announcing the continuing adjustments to the Route 37 off ramp from Route 95 which will include an exit ramp serving Topgolf and a cloverleaf development north of that – presumably to handle COSTCO traffic. Alviti says COSTCO will be to the rear and to the side of Topgolf – “there’s plenty of room for it”. (first part of Valicenti interview with Alviti, here: https://omny.fm/shows/the-news-with-gene-valicenti/ask-the-dot-with-director-peter-alviti-08-04-22)

While efforts to confirm the COSTCO announcement on the record were fruitless, many talked about the development off the record. A source confirmed that COSTCO would definitely not be considering their most recent location idea, on the Mulligan’s property, and that the “behind Shaw’s and next to Topgolf” location would be the most likely, also going on to say that Shaw’s, itself, will not be closed or moved.

From Mayor Hopkins:

A press release is going to be sent. Notes meeting held with RIDOT’s Peter Alviti and Carpionato’s Kelly Coates to discuss the new cloverleaf project planned for Route 295. No confirmation was made of the COSTCO project.

From Carpionato Corp:

Krystal Carcieri Carnes – “We are in active negotiations with various potential tenants for the former Citizens space next to Topgolf, however, we have not signed a lease for that space and have no announcements to make.” (Note: original plans call for Topgolf to use only the backside of the Citizens building, with the front side being used for one or more commercial tenants, most likely office space – we had asked about the use of the Shaws’s site for COSTCO).

From Costco’s store developers:

“Costco cannot comment. Thanks.” 

From RIDOT:

Statement of Charles St. Martin, Chief of Public Affairs

The private developer (Carpionato) and the Mayor of Cranston met with RIDOT to talk about improvements at Chapel View at Pontiac Avenue.  

As part of a public-private partnership with the funding coming in part from the developer RIDOT agreed to make ramp improvements.  This is part of the Route 37 project.  This project is funded by a grant from the federal Department of Transportation in accordance with federal law and the project ramp is designed in accordance with federal highway guidelines and approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). (Note: Alviti has said Carpionato is investing $2 million towards the on & off ramps)

In accordance with federal guidelines, there is no direct ramp from the highway to the development.  It will be separated from the highway ramp system and fully funded by the developer as part of a public private partnership.  This project was part of a grant application for the Route 37 project and memorialized in the construction documents for the project we are building.  Both have been approved by FHWA.  

At Route 2, the developer and the mayor discussed modifications to a cloverleaf to make access to Route 2 and local traffic safer and more efficient.  Their concerns were about improving safety and congestion in accordance with Federal Highway Administration regulations.  They did not discuss Costco or any other specific company. 

Local media outlets have reported that Carpionato developers will bear the cost of building an access road to run along Route 37 – RIDOT has said they will not be building a direct on ramp or exit ramp to TopGolf or COSTCO – so how the two will join remains to be determined.

What next?

Remembering the auction that took place of the 210,000=square-foot “old prison” in Cranston that can be seen from Route 95, RINewsToday learned that there are plans to tear down what some have seen as an historic building opportunity – and to offer the space to “manufacturing” or a warehouse. Richard Baccari II is the owner of the property.

Boutique Garden City Center

As all the development explodes around Cranston, there has been little mention of the boutique success Garden City Center has been to creating an area that has made the “heart of Cranston” so appealing to developers.

The GCC website touts their lure to success – “Just outside of Providence, RI, Garden City Center has served the area for 70+ years. A true New England village, GCC brings commerce and community together around a common green space, creating a setting that’s equal parts relaxation and inspiration.”

The Center, nearly completely built out, is expected to move on adding a boutique hotel when the Bank of America expires its lease. the Center recently upgraded some stores to larger storefronts and added several new stores, including the first more ‘big box’ and somewhat out of character to the development, Old Navy.

Garden City Center includes the Whole Foods Plaza, including the Dunkin’ area with Pet Supplies Plus etc. to the side of the large Whole Foods market.

7 stores in Garden City are recruiting new associates.

There have been challenges to malls including the RI Mall, and most recently the Emerald Square Mall, and several empty storefronts in strip malls around Cranston remain long available for tenants. COSTCO and Topgolf are destination locations, and may not significantly add to local businesses.

COSTCO’s model for picking new locations has traditionally required both a liquor store and a gas station.

Link to the TopGolf groundbreaking story in RINewsToday:

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