Last Tuesday the City Council’s Public Works Committee approved a request by Cranston developer Frank Zammiello to receive an underground easement below a portion of Bradford Street in order to build a condo project dubbed, Vista Della Torre. At the same meeting the Public Works Committee was unable to reach consensus on the developer’s request for air-rights over a portion of Federal Street for the same project.
Last spring Zammiello proposed a 330-foot high 33-story condo tower at the intersection of Federal and Bradford Streets on Federal Hill which would have closed a portion of Bradford Street. Greater CIty Providence opposed this proposal. Our main concerns were that Bradford Street should not be abandoned and that this project was moving along too fast with too little public review.
The developers current proposal is for a 250-foot high 25-story condo tower. They are no longer asking for the abandonment of Bradford Street, instead they seek an underground easement allowing them access from an underground parking garage, located below the parking lot currently used by Camille’s between Bradford and Newton Streets, to their proposed tower located on the other side of Bradford Street. The development also features an arch over Federal Street (basically, the 25-story tower would straddle Federal Street with a 2-story high tunnel running through it, see rendering above), for this they require an air-rights easement.
The three of the five members of the Public Works Committee who were present Councilmen Solomon, Yurdin, and Tejada (Councilman Igliozzi and Councilwoman Young were not present) approved the underground easement of Bradford Street, but did not pass the air-rights for Federal Street. After Councilman Solomon moved to approve the air-rights, Councilman Yurdin refused to second the motion, Councilman Tejada, who is the Chairman of the committee is unable to second a motion. Therefor, though 2 of the 3 present members were in favor of the air-rights, Councilman Yurdin was able to delay approval at least until the next meeting of the Public Works Committee (both easements will need approval by the full Council after they are approved by the Public Works Committee).
The City Plan Commission ended at a tie vote of 3 to 3 on whether to recommend air-rights and the Zoning Board will need to approve a height variance in order for this project to move forward. Councilman Yurdin stated that he felt that the Committee approving the air-rights would provide undo momentum before the CPC and Zoning had their final say.
Speaking to The Providence Journal Mr. Zammiello said he feels there is widespread support for this project. “The only people who are against this project, in my estimation, are the West Broadway Association,” he said.
I believe that sentiment to be slightly disingenuous, on Wednesday morning, when that Journal article was published, I heard two woman who live in Dominica Manor on the bus discussing how much they hope the project is not built. The tower would sit in part on land that is part of the Dominica Manor complex.
Greater City Providence as we have stated before, does not disapprove of this project solely on the basis of height. The original 330-foot proposal was probably too high (and it seems the developer never had any intention of building that high based on statements made at an abutters meeting last spring) the current 250-foot high proposal is a better fit, sitting as it does next to the 175-foot Dominica Manor (200-225 feet would be more ideal). The odious concept of abandoning Bradford Street is now off the table. However, the developer must release its latest plans to the public and explain how it will deal with issues of traffic and how this building will fit into the urban fabric of the neighborhood. This location, sitting on the edge of Route 95 as it does, should act towards “bridging” the highway, reconnecting the West Side to Downcity. Not a literal bridge, but a transition of use and pedestrian experience. Will the Federal Street frontage for example have any public use integrated into it, in the form of retail space? Will Federal Street remain a two-way street or will it become one-way as originally proposed? What will happen with the surface lot between Bradford and Newton Streets under which the parking garage will be built? Will we see future development on this space, open space, more surface parking..?
Another issue, which no one has been able to explain to me to any degree of satisfaction (I may just be dense) is how the developer got the rights to develop a portion of the Dominica Manor property. I think they paid some amount of money for the rights to the land and I know that they have to replace 30-some parking spaces they will be taking to build the tower. However, how can a portion of land currently used for affordable housing be transferred to a private developer with no clause for providing any additional affordable housing?
Councilman Yurdin was right. Let’s slow the momentum for a minute and ensure that we are building a good project here that benefits both the developer and the current and future residents of Federal Hill and the city at large.