Warwick Mall owner and former Cranston City Council President, Aram G. Garabedian and partners from Massachusetts and New Hampshire have proposed to build a Marriott Residence Inn on Clifford Street across from the Garrahy Courthouse (see above rendering and site plan). Residence Inn is an extended stay brand, more often associated with the suburbs but slowly making inroads to urban locations nationwide.
Currently, there are no extended stay hotels in Providence (there is a Residence Inn in Warwick), and while Greater City Providence is not opposed to an extended stay brand moving into the city, we must oppose this project as proposed.
The developer is seeking to abandon a portion of Orange Street between Clifford and Friendship Street. The abandonment will allow the developer to build a linear building along Clifford Street and have surface parking along Friendship Street. A street abandonment and surface parking are a double whammy of anti-urban design.
Viewing the site plan above, one can see the two lots straddling Orange Street (currently owned by the developer) are each large enough to hold the entire hotel. Certainly, hotel guests visiting Providence could deal with having to cross Orange Street to get from the parking lot to the hotel. A raised crosswalk or other traffic calming device could be employed to ensure the most pleasant pedestrian experience. The city is eager to rebuild the street grid between Downcity and the Jewelry District once Route 195 is removed. Removing a portion of the grid now is not a good first step towards that goal.
In their petition to the City Council to abandon the street the developer states, “the abandonment… would promote the public health, welfare, and comfort in that it would improve the overall economic well being of the surrounding area.” Seeing as it is physically possible to build the hotel completely on one of the adjacent parcels and not abandon the street, this public benefit would seem to be moot.
In a Providence Journal article dated May 13th, Ara Aftandilian (of Summit Hotel Properties, Garabedian’s partner in the project) states, that he sees the area near the courthouse, now covered with surface parking, as a budding neighborhood for development. OK then, why abandon one of this budding neighborhood’s existing streets to build a hotel that is dependent on surface parking then. Aftandilian also states, “Residence Inn is the leading extended-stay brand, and obviously it’s a recognizable brand and people know of it. Extended stay in urban environments is fairly new. Typically they’re in suburban environments.” Perhaps the developer and the brand need to learn how to fit in to an urban environment, one could forgive them if their prior experience is in the suburbs.
We look forward to the developers reviewing the urban environment in which they find themselves and are hopeful that they will come up with a plan that does not require the abandonment of a city street.
- Greater City Providence: Public Works Committee to consider abandonment of part of Orange Street