Greater City Providence

Wither Grove Street School

Grove Street School in 2003, photo from Art In Ruins

Remember Grove Street School? [] [Art In Ruins]

The historic building that for years neighbors have advocated for reuse, while owners of the building made plans to turn it into overflow parking for funeral home business on Broadway was met with illegal demolition on a cold Saturday in February 2007.

Owned by Michael Tarro, a Federal Hill resident and Assistant Providence City Solicitor, running for Steve Costantino’s seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly, this building continues to deteriorate as every possible requirement for either fixing the building or just securing it, is appealed.

While advocates continue to meet each appeal, time may be running out as Tarro has appealed the last Board of Building Review ruling and yet another hearing to duke this out in court is set for Thursday (Aug. 12) at 1pm.

How this has been able to continue without fines, without a lien, without outrage from the city is curious at best, and disgusting at worse. Regardless of where you fall on the support fault line for this building/property/family, the fact that it was illegally demo-ed makes it an illegal demo. The fact that the building has never been secured for all these years makes it a gross negligence of municipal laws.

Grove Street School today:

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Greater City Providence

Promoting the smart urban growth of the Greater Providence region.


  • The roof looks to be in good condition.

    Actually, the funeral home looks to pretty well kept as well.

  • So, any news on how the endless appeal is going? Does anyone ever mention this building’s demise and complete and utter law scoff when talking with the candidate Tarro?

  • Press release from the WBNA [.pdf]

    West Broadway Neighborhood Association, 1560 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02909
    Contact: Kari Lang at 401-301-3821, 401-831-9344 or

    Historic building still threatened in spite of legal wins

    Significant school building wins all legal battles yet languishes from owner neglect

    Providence, Rhode Island – August 22, 2010 – In yet another legal win for the historic Grove Street School, the State Building Code Standards Committee Board of Appeal recently voted 13 to 3 to uphold a Providence Building Official’s decision requiring owners Michael Tarro and other members of the Tarro family to immediately stabilize and secure the building.

    On a cold Saturday morning in February of 2007, Mayor David N. Cicilline and Federal Hill residents acted to stop the wrecking ball hired by the Tarro family that was to illegally demolish the historic property. Since that time the City of Providence has remained committed to preserving the school throughout a lengthy legal process, and hired independent attorney Deming Sherman to pursue a case against the owners, due to the fact that partial owner Michael Tarro is employed by the City of Providence as an assistant solicitor.

    In the three and a half years since the building was partially demolished, the owners have appealed each court battle the city has won. These appeals include a Superior Court trial, an appeal to the Supreme Court, and two administrative appeals, with resulting decisions that legally prevent further demolition of the school.

    As this historically significant building wins in court, however, it remains vulnerable to damage from weather and vandals due to owner neglect. Broken windows, holes in the roof, and an immense opening where the partial demolition occurred before residents and the City intervened have community members concerned and disheartened. The site is also now trash-strewn, overgrown with weeds, and covered in graffiti.

    “This situation is ridiculous. If you or I were to keep our homes this way, the City would heavily fine us and move to take our property, yet this intentional blight is allowed to continue,” said Kathy Pearce, a resident who lives near the school. “Neighbors want to see the historic Grove Street School preserved and reused. From a neighborhood safety perspective, it is dangerous that the building has not yet been secured.”

    Relief may soon come to the former school, as the City has indicated that it will board the building and secure it from intrusion and the weather, and will put a lien on the property to cover the cost of the stabilization work. The City also pledged to cite all violations that exist on the property.

    As for securing the Grove Street School’s future, several studies conducted over the past two years determine that the school is structurally sound and salvageable for re-use. In addition, an interested buyer has been identified who is willing to purchase the school with the intent for neighborhood-sensitive use.

    Engineer and architect Wil Yoder of Providence conducted a structural review and concluded that the school building is in sound condition except for its southeast corner, where the previous demolition attempt compromised the exterior wall of the structure. A re-use study by Charles Hagenah Architects, Inc., of Waltham, MA, includes a detailed plan and feasibility review for renovation of the Grove Street School as condominiums with green, energy efficient features.

    “In a city where preservation is highly valued, the historic Grove Street School is the unfortunate poster child for demolition-by-neglect. This situation highlights a blatant disregard for the laws that we all live by in the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island,” said Kari Lang, Executive Director of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. “As Mayor Cicilline said when he came to the scene of the demolition back in 2007 ‘This isn’t the Wild, Wild West.’ I hope during this election season, the City of Providence, our elected officials and the candidates will work to save this building in the name of legality as well as neighborhood preservation.”

    To preservationists and community members, the Grove Street Elementary School symbolizes a defining era of immigration in Providence’s Federal Hill. It is the last remaining of five grammar schools built to serve the rapidly increasing immigrant population of Federal Hill in 1900. Advocates argue that the property embodies a critical piece of the neighborhood’s heritage, and should be saved to benefit the community through its re-use as a cultural center such as a museum, or for social services or housing.

    The building was decommissioned by the Providence Public School Department in 1980. While the site was left unused for over 30 years, its recognition as an important historic property increased. It is included as a contributing historic property in the Broadway-Armory National Register Historic District, the Industrial and Commercial Buildings District, and the Providence Preservation Society’s Endangered Properties list.

    Established in 1983, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association organizes neighbors and businesses on the West Side of Providence to preserve and promote their diverse, historic, urban community as a safe, vibrant and sustainable place to live, work, and play. For more information about the WBNA, please visit or call 401.831.9344.

  • And, from the Providence Preservation Society:

    Grove Street Elementary School Update

    The Tarro family, owners of the Grove Street School in Providence’s West End, have at last begun fulfilling the Providence Building Official’s order to stabilize their deteriorating structure. Workers were recently spotted beginning clean-up around the property; as of Thursday, September 2, the grass had been mowed and some debris removed. However, the Tarros have indicated that they will not repair the roof – a major element in the stabilization process – leaving the city responsible for it.

    In 2007, the Tarros initiated an illegal demolition of the facility, but Mayor David N. Cicilline and Federal Hill residents intervened to halt it. Since then, the City of Providence has remained admirably committed to preserving the school building throughout a lengthy legal process, during which the owners appealed every court battle that the city won.

  • I must say, I’m shocked and entertained by the outcome of this. Having to watch the building crumble out my front window since 2007, and having followed the endless legal battle over it, I was convinced that it would fall down before any real decision was made. Why wasn’t this front page news when the decision was made?

Providence, RI
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Wind: 4mph NNW
Humidity: 57%
Pressure: 29.89"Hg
UV index: 5
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