Greater City Providence

Getting to say I told you so

PBN reports today that Tim Hortons will be closing all its shops in Providence and Hartford.

While I was never a fan of Tim Hortons, it’s closing is not what I’m I told you so-ing about. No, this is what I’m I told you so-ing about:

tim hortons douglas

Tim Hortons at corner of Chalkstone and Douglas Avenues in Providence. Image from Google StreetView

Remember when we were talking about Brewed Awakenings proposal for a coffee shop with drive-thru on Hope Street? And remember how one concern was if Brewed Awakenings failed there we’d then be stuck with a building purpose built for a drive-thru coffee shop, ill suited for anything else? Well here’s that nightmare scenario come to life at the corner of Chalkstone Avenue and Douglas Avenue.

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I mean look at that thing. Taking up a prime piece of real estate at the intersection of two major city thoroughfares, we have a little tiny shed, surrounded by parking, with a drive through wrapped around it. And now it will be empty. Maybe Dunkin Donuts or Honey Dew or someone will swoop in and take it, it is at the entrance to Route 95 north south. Or maybe it will just sit and rot.

There’s also a Tim Hortons at the corner of Westminster and Dorrance Downcity:

tim hortons westminster

Corner of Westminster and Dorrance Streets. Image from Google StreetView.

Though the economy means it won’t be easy to fill that spot, it is not purpose built and pretty much anything that could utilize the square footage can go in there. Whoever ends up marketing that vacancy will have a much larger pool of potential tenants.

All these donut shops and pharmacies and what-have-you with drive-thrus are a blight on our landscape when they are open and operating, and an albatross when they are vacant. It is time we remove the option of having a drive-thru from our zoning.

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.


  • There’s a bigger story regarding the Tim Horton’s downtown, that will make it hard to replace: the manager of the branch used to be homeless, and she has always allowed people to come in there and sit as long as they like, including many of the stalwarts of Providence’s homeless community, as long as they remain courteous and respectful. Which they all do.

    To close it down just as winter hits is going to be a big blow for the downtown homeless community – a rare spot in the warm where they were welcomed, and treated like human beings.

  • This is RI. This location will most likely be snapped up by Dunkin Donuts. If not, expect Honey Dew.

    I doubt Starbucks… because of the neighborhood demographics.

  • It’s actually the entrance to I-95 SOUTH, not north.

    Anyone who wants that location would most likely rip down the building and put up something suitable to the new business.

    “You can’t build here because when you fail no one would want the site,” is a pretty weak argument, I’d say.

  • Since these are mostly franchise locations, I am not sure what will happen to the properties. I suppose they will go to the highest bidder. If Dunkin Donuts wanted to make some nice points with the community they should talk to the Tim’s franchise owners and see if some of these can re-open as DD.

    And how about Brewed Awakenings? With all this prime donut shop real estate on the market why don’t they look at that Chalkstone Avenue site? I know its not the east side demographic they are looking for but it does have the drive thru!

  • In all likelihood as well, because of the rise of “brand architecture”, even if Dunk took it, the building itself would undergo a major reconfiguration. I wouldn’t be surprised if a newcomer liked Brewed Awakenings would try it out, either. There are other coffee franchises like Intelligentsia, too, that want an in-road into our over saturated, but strong (New Englanders LOVE their coffee) market.

  • Are there any community development corporations active in that neighborhoods? If so, this would be a great spot for an affordable housing/retail project like 500 Broad Street.

  • Smith Hill CDC works in this area. Their Capital Square project is right down the street. They are currently working on a number of rehabs in the area too.

    Unfortunately, Capital Square’s retail component has been slow to fill (I think only one unit is occupied).

    I agree though, this location should see a much larger and more productive building fill the lot. Ideally, retail on the ground, housing above. Chalkstone should be widened here to allow for street parking as well.

  • Downtown needs a 24 hour diner. Nothing chic, just a place to get coffee and eggs at 4 in the morning. The vacated Tim Horton’s on the corner would be a good spot for that.

Providence, RI
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