Adelaide Avenue Church:
At its September 10, 2020 meeting, the Zoning Board of Review approved a parking adjustment and use change for the historic former Westminster Unitarian Church and Hood Memorial Church (1901) church at 126 Adelaide Avenue in the Elmwood Historic District. Blue Dog Capital, the Providence-based developer, will insert one bedroom and studio apartments into the building (proposal). The former sanctuary is envisioned to be a new space available for rent by the community. If executed, the plan will save a place associated with African-American history, though many immediate neighbors fear the project will lead to displacement and harassment of current neighborhood residents.
Crook Point Bascule Bridge:
PPS is delighted to share that the City of Providence and the Providence Redevelopment Agency are hosting a design competition to generate reuse ideas for the Crook Point Bascule Bridge, a 2020 Most Endangered Property. This steel railway drawbridge (at left, photo by Matthew Ward) once connected Providence’s Fox Point neighborhood to the City of East Providence across the Seekonk River. Currently unused and in a fixed upright position since 1976, it serves as a symbol of Providence’s industrial past and a sculptural element of the city’s skyline.
In the 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Plan, RIDOT has revealed plans to demolish the Crook Point Bridge, built over a century ago to link the East Side of Providence with East Providence and redundant for over 40 years. PPS supports the desire of Mayor Elorza and others to preserve the bridge. Local landscape architect and professor Adam E. Anderson, known for his 10,000 Suns project and the recent Living Edge commission for Downcity Design and PVD Parks – both on the east side of the Providence River – has proposed an interesting concept for an elevated park.
Read WPRI’s article on the bridge to learn more.
PPS encourages citizens to contact Mayor Elorza’s office (401-421-2489 or email@example.com) to let him know that you support the preservation of this Providence landmark.
PPS’s Statement on the Crook Point Bridge:
The Crook Point Bascule Bridge is an object with a great deal of historic, cultural and artistic significance to the community. With the rail infrastructure in downtown Providence nearly erased, the Crook Point Bridge is a tangible reminder of the railroad network that shipped goods around the world, helping Providence achieve status as one of America’s wealthiest and most productive cities in the late 19th century. Further, its existence provides a link to the tradespeople who built the bridge, the tenders who ensured safe rail and water traffic, and others associated with it during its productive period. Their memories will be all but relegated to the archives if the bridge is demolished.
It is encouraging to hear that the City of Providence wants to preserve it as a landmark. However, that determination should be made only after careful consideration of safety, cost and function. Ideally, the bridge could be a performing asset again in the future.
Based on its age, it is potentially eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission will make that determination of eligibility, upon request by the RI Department of Transportation.
PPS thinks it will be declared eligible, though that could change once further research is completed. In the meantime, because of the community’s attachment to it as an iconic symbol of Providence, it deserves a consideration of all of the options, including preservation in place, re-use, partial demolition, full demolition, etc.
Cranston Street Armory:
We encourage all concerned citizens to join the State of Rhode Island for one of two public meetings that will feature proposals for the renovation and reuse of the Cranston Street Armory. These proposals were received as part of the state’s Request for Proposals process this past March. PPS helped form and has served as a member of the Steering Committee for this process since its inception.
The virtual meetings will be held on Tuesday, October 13, from 3 pm to 5 pm, and Thursday, October 15, from 5 pm to 7 pm and will be identical in format. They will include pre-recorded presentations of the proposed projects, after which attendees can ask questions of the developers.
The development teams “will discuss their visions for the property, including proposed uses, strategies for the integration of community-based businesses and public access, and project timeline,” according to the state. Meeting details (in both English and Spanish) are here.
The Cranston Street Armory Reuse Plan is an ongoing process led by the State of Rhode Island and a Steering Committee made up of community members and other stakeholders, including PPS. The goal is to develop a roadmap for the State to work with private partners to return the historic armory to active use.
PPS is excited that a new future for the Armory is about to clear another hurdle! The State of RI has posted an RFP (request for proposals). This step will bring to light potential non-profit and private sector partners with proposed uses for the building, which has been vacant for over 20 years. We agree with the State that a public-private partnership is the most practicable way to move forward with adaptive re-use of this massive and beloved structure — which was a previous Most Endangered Property.
Welcome Arnold House, 21 Planet Street:
The Welcome Arnold House at 21 Planet Street was nearly lost to neglect and demolition, but today it is once again an occupied College Hill dwelling (multi-unit rental). This former Most Endangered Property has not been a textbook case for sensitive treatment, but the tenacity of PPS and others in fighting for its preservation is a success story. A protracted (and at times contentious) restoration process has led to an almost completed project.
During the summer of 2017, PPS worked diligently to oppose proposed demolition of the 18th century Welcome Arnold House. That fate was averted, yet little transpired at 21 Planet except for graffiti and continued degradation. Driving down Planet Street today, you’ll see that quite a bit of work has taken place. On Monday, April 22, the property is on the HDC agenda for approval of construction details. We are anxious to hear from the applicant and learn more about this work.
The owner of the Welcome Arnold House was denied permission to demolish the house. Instead, his application to remodel it was approved. Is this what the city’s Historic District Commission meant?
According to the Providence Daily Dose, “the significance of this 18th-century structure goes beyond its intrinsic architectural value to the neighborhood. Welcome Arnold was himself a merchant of some note and probably a player in the Gaspee Affair.” Why is it so easy to discard our city’s history? PPS is monitoring this property and will send out an alert as to any new changes.
Hotel Hive Proposal:
Although developer Jim Abdo’s request for tax-stabilization deal was continued indefinitely by the Finance Committee last month, a majority of City Council members signed a petition to schedule the proposal for a vote before the full Council. The deal passed 8-6 at Thursday’s Council meeting. The Council is expected to take a second and final vote on Tuesday evening.
PPS believes the development of these buildings is vital to the successful redevelopment and repopulation of downtown, and applaud the Council’s decision.
Two vacant historic landmarks on Westminster Street, the old Providence Journal Building and the Kresge Building, have been purchased by a Washington-based developer, who seeks to transform them into a micro-loft hotel (Hotel Hive). However, developer Jim Abdo’s request for a 20-year tax stabilization agreement from the city was continued indefinitely by the Finance Committee on Tuesday, November 26.
PPS Executive Director Brent Runyon has spoken out in favor of the project, which would revitalize these vacant “eyesores” directly across from City Hall. Read the full letter to City Council here.
The I-195 Commission has publicly reviewed five proposals for Parcel 28 on the west side. Following presentations in April, Tim Love of Utile presented design/project analysis of each proposal followed by financial analysis by Real Estate Solutions Group. The projects vary in size, form, and use– from mixed use, residential to spec office space.
See each development team’s proposal under March 27 on the commission’s website and analysis by Utile and RES under supplemental materials for April 24.
A special meeting has been called for May 8. Public comment for Parcel 28 is on the agenda, followed by executive session for discussion and then a vote on the preferred developer.
In other I-195 news, executive director Peter McNally has resigned. Below is a list of recent news articles about the Commission.
The I-195 Commission is slated to review East Side parcels. We anticipate that at the November 14 meeting, the I-195 District Commission will consider the future of three parcels on the East Side– Parcels 2, 5, and 6. Three developers are vying for development rights on these lots, located between S. Water and S. Main Streets and flanking Wickenden Street.
Interested parties should attend. The Commission meets on Wednesday, November 14 at 5:00 pm at the RI Commerce Corporation (315 Iron Horse Way, Ste 101).
On August 28th, the agenda included a presentation by Biederman Redevelopment Ventures regarding park management for the riverside parks, currently under construction. Discussion of East Side parcels 2, 5, and 6 development was NOT on the agenda.
On May 9, the I-195 Commission hosted three developer presentations for Parcels 2, 5, and 6 on the East Side. Plans are available on the Commission’s website under the April 11 meeting. More info on the meeting here. Chairman Robert Davis invited the public to continue submitting comments through the summer as the Commission deliberates. At the June 21 Commission hearing, their consultant Utile will give a presentation on their assessment of the three proposals.
Student Housing Ordinance:
The CPC’s sub-committee reviewing changes to the zoning ordinance’s language regarding student housing met December 13. After a lengthy informative and deliberative process this fall, the sub-committee is prepared to send the draft changes to the full CPC for consideration. This ordinance is not on the agenda for the December 18 CPC meeting.
The CPC requests that public comments, questions, and recommendations about the student housing ordinance to be sent to CPC staff (via firstname.lastname@example.org).
Due to the concerns of their constituents regarding overcrowding in private student rentals, Councilmen Zurier and Yurdin have both introduced amendments to the Zoning Ordinance to strengthen the restriction on college student occupancy in private dwellings. Cm. Zurier’s amendment was continued at the City Council Committee on Ordinances earlier this month. At City Council on Monday, Cm. Yurdin introduced an amendment that was referred to the Ordinance Committee; we also expect it to appear on an upcoming agenda for the City Plan Commission. We will continue to keep you posted as we monitor City Council and CPC attempts to improve student housing zoning.
Recent Developments – Providence councilman reverses course on student housing limits