Distributed June 8, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel



Brown Policy Report

Residents rate mall highly, but jobs, tax revenues fall short of predictions
A survey of 329 Providence residents conducted May 6-9, 2000, finds they rate the Providence Place Mall highly even though it has fallen short of predictions for job creation and sales tax revenue. The survey also finds positive ratings for the job performance of Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., but his numbers are down from a year ago.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sixty-one percent of Providence residents give excellent or good marks to the Providence Place Mall, according to a new Brown University study. However, a review of jobs and sales tax revenues generated by the mall finds both the number of jobs created and amount of sales tax received by the state running behind early forecasts.

This Brown Policy Report is the first in a series of research projects designed to inform the community about major policy issues. Sales tax revenues were provided by the state budget office and job numbers were provided by mall administrators. The survey component of the research project was conducted May 6-9, 2000, at Brown’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions by Darrell M. West, professor of political science and director of the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory; Marion Orr, associate professor of political science, urban studies and public policy; and Jack Combs, research administrator at the Taubman Center. It was based on a citywide random sample of 329 Providence residents. It had a margin of error of about plus or minus six percentage points.

Sixty-one percent of Providence residents give the mall excellent or good ratings overall. Seventeen percent rate the mall only fair or poor, and 22 percent express no opinion. However, Providence dwellers distinguish different aspects of the mall in their evaluations. Their highest ratings are reserved for how the mall architecture fits into the downtown area, with 69 percent giving the architecture excellent or good ratings and 23 percent saying it is only fair or poor. This is followed by the 56 percent who rate the mall positively as a place to shop, 40 percent who give it excellent or good marks as an entertainment center, and 39 percent who rate it positively as a place to eat. Least popular with city residents is the cost of parking. When asked how they rated the cost of parking facilities at the mall, only 17 percent give it excellent or good ratings, while 50 percent rate it only fair or poor.

The mall’s record in job creation and sales tax generation is less favorable. Job creation and sales tax generation were key arguments behind the $208 million in tax relief provided for the Providence Place Mall. Based on current figures, a large number of jobs has been created but not the 2,840 jobs estimated by a 1995 Gould market study. Based on a Providence Journal story in February 2000 and confirmed through interviews with mall managers, the mall employs “about 2,000” workers. In May 2000 mall general manager Joseph Koechel predicted that “several hundred jobs will be created within the next few months.” This would bring mall jobs total to between 2,300 and 2,400 jobs, still below the Gould projections.

Sales tax revenues for the mall also are running behind early projections. A June 1999 Gould study commissioned by the developer forecast that in 2000, the mall would generate $10.5 million in sales tax revenues, roughly $875,000 a month. Based on numbers from the state budget office, sales tax receipts for the nine months from August 1999 through April 2000 totaled $4,539,763 for an average of $504,418 a month. As shown below, August through December 1999 sales tax revenues totaled $1,983,453, while the January through April 2000 receipts came in at $2,556,310.

Aug/Sept 1999$296,608January 2000541,247
October 1999242,137February 2000770,993

November 1999608,623March 2000530,457

December 1999836,085April 2000713,613

When the mall agreement was being negotiated in 1995, the public subsidy for the mall was unpopular. At that time, 66 percent of statewide voters indicated they opposed construction of the new shopping mall. Now that the project is built, researchers asked, “As an encouragement to build the mall, its developers were given some tax incentives. Now that the mall is built, do you think these incentives were a good or not so good investment by state and local officials?” Forty-seven percent felt it was a good investment, 26 percent believed it was a not so good investment, and 27 percent had no opinion.

Researchers asked several questions about how the mall has affected different aspects of contemporary life. In terms of traffic, 39 percent report the mall has made traffic congestion within the city worse, 38 percent feel congestion is about the same, 3 percent indicate it has made congestion better, and 20 percent are unsure. Twenty-seven percent believe the mall has benefited the Rhode Island economy a lot, 28 percent think it has some, 15 percent say not very much, and 30 percent have no opinion. To determine how the mall has affected the public mood, researchers asked if respondents thought it has improved the state’s sense of spirit. Thirty-two percent believe the mall improved spirit a lot, 34 percent say some, 17 percent feel not very much, and 17 percent are unsure.

In order to gauge the impact of the mall on shopping habits, researchers asked whether it has made respondents less likely to shop out-of-state or to shop outside Providence but within Rhode Island. Twenty-three percent say the mall has made them less likely to shop out-of-state and 20 percent say the mall has made them less likely to shop outside Providence but within Rhode Island. Researchers also asked people who visited the mall whether they visited other stores and restaurants outside the mall in the downtown area. Twenty-three percent say shopping at the mall spurred them to visit other downtown stores and 33 percent indicate the mall led them to dine at other downtown restaurants.

In other results, Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. continues to earn favorable job ratings in the city, with 67 percent of residents believing he is doing an excellent or good job. However, this number is down from a year ago in the city, when 77 percent felt he was doing an excellent or good job.

For more information about the survey results, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163 or Marion Orr at (401) 863-9436. A copy of the full policy report is available on the Web at www.InsidePolitics.org.

Survey Questions and Answers

How satisfied are you with the overall quality of life in Providence? 33% very satisfied, 51% somewhat satisfied, 15% not very satisfied, 1% don’t know or no answer

Compared to five years ago, would you say downtown Providence looks: 78% better off, 8% about the same, 6% worse off, 8% don’t know or no answer

Generally speaking, would you say things in Providence are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track? 68% right direction, 20% wrong track, 12% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the job Buddy Cianci is doing as mayor? 22% excellent, 45% good, 17% only fair, 8% poor, 8%don’t know or no answer

How many times in the last 6 months have you gone shopping on the Internet? 72% never, 13% once every few months, 8% once a month, 2% once every other week, 2% once every week, 3% don’t know or no answer

How many times in the last 6 months have you gone shopping out of state? 32% never, 26% once every few months, 19% once a month, 10% once every other week,11% once every week, 2% don’t know or no answer

How many times in the last 6 months have you gone shopping in Rhode Island other than Providence? 14% never, 19% once every few months, 25% once a month, 20% once every other week, 19% once every week, 3% don’t know or no answer

How many times in the last 6 months have you gone shopping in Providence? 11% never, 15% once every few months, 15% once a month, 21% once every other week 36% once every week, 2% don’t know or no answer

How many times in the last 6 months have you gone to the Providence Place Mall? 27% never, 30% once every few months, 19% once a month, 14% once every other week 8% once every week, 2% don’t know or no answer

When you go to the mall, do you primarily go for: 74% shopping, 9% food, 17% entertainment

When you go to the mall, do you generally go: 12% in the morning during the week, 4% around lunchtime, 27% in the afternoon, 25% in the evening, 32% only on weekends

When you go to the mall, do you generally: 31% drive there by yourself, 34% drive there with a family member, 23% drive there with a friend or non-family member, 12% go there on mass transit such as a bus or trolley

Overall, how would you evaluate Providence Place Mall? 24% excellent, 37% good, 14% only fair, 3% poor, 22% don’t know or no answer

How would you evaluate the following aspects of the Providence Place Mall:

a) as a place to shop? 19% excellent, 37% good, 12% only fair, 2% poor, 30% don’t know or no answer

b) as a place to eat? 15% excellent, 24% good, 10% only fair, 4% poor, 47% don’t know or no answer

c) as an entertainment center? 13% excellent, 27% good, 8% only fair, 3% poor, 49% don’t know or no answer

How does the architecture of the Providence Place Mall fit into the downtown area? 29% excellent, 40% good, 15% only fair, 8% poor, 8% don’t know or no answer

How would you rate the cost of parking facilities at the Providence Place Mall? 3% excellent, 14% good, 15% only fair, 35% poor, 33% don’t know or no answer

Do you think the Providence Place Mall has made traffic congestion within the city: 39% worse, 38% about the same, 3% better, 20% don’t know or no answer

When you go to the Providence Place Mall, do you also visit stores outside the mall in the downtown area? 23% yes, 52% no, 25% don’t know or no answer

When you go to the Providence Place Mall, do you also visit restaurants outside the mall in the downtown area? 33% yes, 41% no, 26% don’t know or no answer

Has the Providence Place Mall made you: 23% less likely to go shopping out of state, 55% had no effect, 6% more likely to go shopping out of state, 16% don’t know or no answer

Has the Providence Place Mall made you: 20% less likely to go shopping in Rhode Island outside of Providence 52% had no effect, 6% more likely to go shopping in Rhode Island outside of Providence, 22% don’t know or no answer

How much do you think Providence Place Mall has benefited the Rhode Island economy? 27% a lot, 28% some, 15% not very much, 30% don’t know or no answer

How much do you think Providence Place Mall has improved the sense of spirit in Rhode Island? 32% a lot, 34% some, 17% not very much, 17% don’t know or no answer

As an encouragement to build the mall, its developers were given some tax incentives. Now that the mall is built, do you think these incentives were a: 47% good, 26% not so good investment by state and local officials, 27% don’t know or no answer

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