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Proposed $50 million Hotel Across from Providence,
Rhode Island Convention Center Under Scrutiny

By Cathleen F. Crowley, Providence Journal, R.I.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jun. 4, 2004 - Governor Carcieri wants to scrutinize a proposal to build a Providence hotel partially subsidized by the state.

On Wednesday, the governor's staff sent letters to Mayor David N.

Cicilline and to the finance committee chairmen of the House and Senate requesting any documents related to Vincent Mesolella's hotel project.

Carcieri opposes the plan, and last week his staff criticized state legislators for not doing their own "due diligence" on the hotel project.

Mesolella, a former state representative, has proposed building a $50-million hotel across from the Rhode Island Convention Center on the site of the Fogarty Building. A sky bridge over Sabin Street would connect the convention center to the 250-room hotel.

Mesolella, who could not be reached yesterday, is asking for $17 million -- up from $15 million -- in convention center bonds that he would pay back over 10 years with profits from the hotel.

The General Assembly is contemplating legislation that would force the convention center to issue the bonds.

In his letter, Carcieri sought to put the brakes on the deal, which "appears to be on a fast track."

"First, the governor is concerned that we simply lack the information necessary to make an informed judgment on this deal; specifically it is not at all clear any due diligence has been performed," said Jeff Neal, the governor's spokesman.

"Secondly, I would say that the process for approving this scheme is backwards. The governor believes that it is the role of the convention center authority to study the market, determine the need for a hotel, seek proposals and make recommendations as to which proposal which would best serve the need," Neal said.

The written requests from the governor's office asked state and Providence officials to produce any information that relates to the project or Mesolella, including contracts, development arrangements, real-estate rights, and any agreements struck during former Mayor Vincent A. Cianci's administration.

"As part of our due diligence, we are also seeking information relevant to the developer's historical performance with respect to this or other dealings between the City [of Providence] and the developer, if any, and the city's evaluation of his experience and ability to perform with respect to such projects," the request said.

Mesolella oversaw the construction of the $50-million Providence Public Safety building, which was $6.5 million over budget.

The Rhode Island Convention Center Authority plans to review the hotel project at a special meeting Tuesday in the second-floor boardroom of the convention center at 3 p.m.

-----To see more of the Providence Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.projo.com

(c) 2004, Providence Journal, R.I. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

 
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