PPS’ Planning & Architectural Review Committee recently reviewed two East Side projects by developer Dustin Duzube of Providence Living: 144 Benefit Street and the former Brigham-Granoff Estate at 460 Rochambeau. Both proposals require zoning changes and are going through the City. You can read our comment letters here.
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:
Good news following sad news! According to the media, RIDOT has deemed the Crook Point Bascule Bridge structurally sound following a fire in June. The timber decking burned, but the superstructure of the former railroad bridge was found to be safe and plans can move forward to transfer the bridge to the City of Providence. The winner of a design competition was announced by the city last month, prior to the June 29 fire. We can’t wait to see this former MEP and industrial relic turned into a real landmark!
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.
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.
Providence Journal Building:
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.
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.