Greater City Providence

Washington Trust


Washington Trust, Westminster Street.

I am so pleased that Washington Trust has moved from their horrid suburban style branch on Washington Street, to this nice new urban storefront on Westminster Street (I’m especially enchanted by that new sign, Love. It.). Banks are not the most exciting retail development for a downtown, and too many of them can actually put a damper on pedestrian traffic, displacing other retail that would generate foot traffic. But seeing an unused storefront put to use is great. And seeing a company turn it’s back on a location that was plainly designed for the automobile in favor of a location that is all about people on foot, that’s delicious.

So now that Washington Trust has their new digs with the awesome signage, my thoughts immediately turn to what should be done with their horrid little drive thru ridden former home on Washington Street?


Washington Trust former Washington Street location.

My first instinct is to cry, “tear the sucker down!” It is terrible, it is not urban, it rips a huge hole in the street wall. It has a drive thru, it has surface parking, it is only two stories tall, it has almost zero glazing on the facade… But the environmentalist in me pauses for a minute to think tearing an existing building down, even such a tragic one, is a waste. Granted, much of the waste from demolition is recycled these days, but just the energy expended to build and then tear down the building is a waste. The other thought is that our history with tearing stuff down to build new stuff isn’t good. I’d rather see this dumpy box sitting around for years to come than see more surface parking.

Dave suggested the other night that this could possibly make a good location for a music venue. It is two stories tall, perhaps a hole could be cut between the two levels to allow for an upper level with a stage below. I could see that bare facade spruced up with a flashy marquee. It is in our Arts & Entertainment District with Trinity, AS220, and Lupo’s all steps away. Dave also suggested the adjacent surface lot could be used for outdoor festivals with the drive thru serving as a bar area, serve beers right out the window. I could see the surface lot becoming a beer garden (on nights when there are no shows) and this being the place to be on summer evenings, drinking beers and meeting friends al fresco.

So I’m torn. It would be wonderful to see that whole end of the block rebuilt with a nice 4-6 story building, retail on the ground, office/residential above. But on the other hand, perhaps this could be creatively re-used. I know I don’t want to see it torn down for more parking, and I don’t want to see another bank or a McDonald’s move in there reusing the drive thru.

One last thing:


Ah Providence…

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I LOVE the idea of turning the old bank into a performance venue. Especially the part about outside events with a ..ehem.. beverage window.

  • “Re-skin” the facade with possible opportunity to expand vertically. Subdivide the lot to build compact structures. Were any streets abandoned to allow for the surface parking (Worcester Street comes to mind)? If so, re-create the grid and build with frontage on the new street.

  • PBN has a story about the new Washington Trust branch.

    “We’ve created an upscale environment that’s comfortable and convenient for the busy professionals of Providence,” said John C. Warren, Washington Trust’s chairman and CEO. “It offers a fine blend of state-of-the-art branch technology, that’s unique to the New England area, for fast, efficient and secure financial banking transactions and one-on-one personal service provided by our trusted advisors.”

    The branch has a contemporary, tech-savvy design that Washington Trust intended to mirror the energy and pace of the city. The branch features a wireless Internet zone in the waiting area, and the customer-service stations provide a single location for both customer transactions as well as service.

    The branch sounds pretty cool, makes me want to hang out there.

  • LOL that guy was from mass! But it was a great move on Washington’s part. That section of downcity was, and is, made for finances. Plus having the sign put in kind of gave me the feel of looking at Wall Street or some part of Times Square. Anyone agree?

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