By ALEX MALM
When Mayor Frank Picozzi was sworn in on the front steps of City Hall in January of 2021 he had a vision of what the old annex space could be used for just a couple of hundred feet …
By ALEX MALM
When Mayor Frank Picozzi was sworn in on the front steps of City Hall in January of 2021 he had a vision of what the old annex space could be used for just a couple of hundred feet away from where he was standing.
Now with the help of a $5 million federal earmark grant Warwick is one step closer to fulfilling Picozzi’s vision.
Last Friday, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse who helped deliver the grant stood at the now empty space where the annex once stood. The new City Hall Plaza is expected to offer year-round activities and amenities including a major dual-purpose skating rink/roller rink/splash pad that can also be used for performances and exhibits, farmers markets, and other public gatherings, as well as new walking paths, green landscaping features, and parking.
“The City of Warwick is extremely grateful to have Senators Reed and Whitehouse in our corner, helping to secure this grant to soon make City Hall Plaza a reality,” said Picozzi. “It will not only be the central gathering place for residents, but it will also create jobs, and help boost our city’s economy. This project has been a vision of mine since I was sworn into office. I’m confident it will greatly enhance the quality of life for all residents here in Warwick.”
Michael Rooney, the President of the Apponaug Village Association and the former Parks and Recreation Director for the city said that when Picozzi and the Administration approached him about it he thought it would be a good thing for the village.
“That's a great idea but where are we going to get the money,” Rooney remembers asking.
Reed said that he and Whitehouse view the plaza as a way to help the local economy as well.
“Senator Whitehouse and I are proud to make this $5 million infusion of federal funding available to help the City advance its economic development priorities,” said Reed. “When it’s completed, this amenity-filled space will give residents and visitors alike another reason to enjoy Warwick and spend some time and money right here in the neighborhood. This plaza will be a place to bring the community together for celebrations, family outings, performances, and more. It will help promote a healthy, active, walkable lifestyle. And in addition to offering opportunities for leisure, recreation, and event space all year round, this new plaza has the potential to be a catalyst for further economic development, increasing foot traffic to the area with the goal of attracting additional private investment and smart growth.”
Rooney said that the plaza will help to establish Apponaug as the center of the city.
“Warwick needs a center, they need a place where people can come. And I think this is perfect,” said Rooney.
When the project was first proposed Rooney said that some in Apponaug had concerns including the Cal Ripken baseball league which utilizes the parking lot. Since then many have become open to the idea after seeing initial drawings. Rooney said that the neighborhood group is going to have community meetings to get feedback on what should take place there.
“This is a great idea and it's going to be great for the city and Apponaug,” said Rooney.
According to Tom Kravitz the Planning Director RFQs were accepted for the project.
“Because of the specialty design associated with the rink itself that will likely involve a secondary subcontractor,” said Kravitz. “I can see the design/permitting effort taking 6-8 months perhaps, with a construction bid coming by the spring of 2023.”
A budget notice in today’s Beacon indicates that in addition the $5 million from a federal earmark grant a proposed $3.5 million in ARPA funds is also being proposed in the budget for the project.
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