Greater City Providence

PPS 2011 Ten Most Endangered Properties

Today, The Providence Preservation Society released their, 2011 Ten Most Endangered Properties List. Let’s take a look:

1. Admiral Ezek Hopkins Homestead

97 Admiral Street, Wanskuck
Photo Google Street View

2. Arcade

65 Weybosset Street, Downcity
Photo Jef Nickerson

3. Barnaby’s Castle

299 Broadway, Federal Hill

Photo Google Street View

4. Cathedral of St. John

271 North Main Street, East Side

Photo Google Street View

5. Downtown National Register District:

Benjamin Dyer Block
215 Weybosset Street, Downcity

Photo Jef Nickerson

George C. Arnold Building
Washington Street at Mathewson Street, Downcity
Narrow Building
Photo Jef Nickerson

Providence National Bank facade
35 Weybosset Street, Downcity
35 Weybosset Street
Photo Jef Nickerson

Teste Block
Weybosset Street at Dorrance Street, Downcity

Photo Google Street View

6. Dynamo House

Eddy Street at South Street, Jewelry District
Dynamo House
Photo Jef Nickerson

7. Grove Street School

Grove Street, Federal Hill
Grove Street School Rally
Photo Jef Nickerson

8. Outlet Parking Garage

100 Pine Street, Downcity
Parking garage
Photo Jef Nickerson

9. Providence Public Schools:

Asa Messer

Photo Google Street View

West Broadway

Photo Google Street View

(and the other schools being closed)

10. Theaters:

1017 Broad Street, South Providence

Photo Google Street View

1039 Chalkstone Avenue

Photo Google Street View

Broadway, Federal Hill
Columbus Theater
Photo Jef Nickerson

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.


  • Old doesn’t not mean swell.

    Tear tear down that Bomes Theater already. Broad St. is blighted enough.

  • That pic is of Asa Messer Elementary. Asa Messer Annex is at 245 Althea Street.

  • Changed the title. All the schools that are closing are on the list as one item.

  • If the city wants to give me the Admiral’s house, I will restore it. And I will sell chocolate covered Twinkies to the soccer fans in the park.

  • The current owner of the Outlet Garage wants to demolish the garage to create another Downtown surface parking lot?

  • @Peter: I find it pretty sad that the owner wants to tear down a parking structure for a parking lot. If I was that owner, I’d be pushing the city to get the surface lots near that garage developed. Then he could rake in the cash as people park in his garage.

    @Miguel: You don’t think the Broad St area would love to have that theatre rehabbed and re-opened as a theatre?

  • @RunawayJim: No because there have been countless proposals for this building over the past 25 years. We are talking a quarter century! This place has been converted to so many different usages (including a furniture store) that it would be expensive and when it’s finished it would be nothing more than an school field trip destination, and will probably be non-profit, not contributing to the city tax base.

    Instead, they should tear it down and build an eco-friendly building with commercial on the ground level and apartments up top.

    Most importantly, they should not allow whoever built the Park Boutique building across the street anywhere near this property, That building was built using cement blocks with a horrible design and looks totally rundown.

  • I think the Bomes is just a lost cause. It’s toast. The Castle and the Columbus on the other hand are really worthwhile. I was so aggravated that they took the marquee off the Castle. I used to love going to 2nd run movies there (before the bizarro Cinema Cafe fiasco).

    I also (sadly) think that Grove St is a lost cause at this point. There needs to be some focus on making the owners make amends for their actions.

    The Arcade should be focus #1 in my book. Every once in a while I stumble upon a picture of it from when I was a kid and it was hoppin’ – totally bums me out. It is a fantastic beautiful Historic building that can easily be used just as it is. Redevelop it as a foodie destination (ala Reading Terminal in Philly), office space for non profits, artsy fartsy shopping mall – there are plenty of options. It could be a solid destination.

  • @Miguel – I do not know the history of how the theater came to be in this state of poor condition, and I would agree that a mixed use building would be great at that location as well as elsewhere. I am sure there are developers who would love to build mixed use buildings. However, it is in situations like this where Providence’s zoning ordinance gets in the way.

    The land where the Bomes theater is located is zoned R-2, which means that any mixed use/commercial development would have to receive a variance, which I believe acts as a deterrent for sensible development in this case. I do not understand how an obvious instance where a zoning change makes sense receives no action. Meanwhile, a neighborhood landmark rots, partially because of lack of money but also partially because zoning prevents the type of development suitable for a compact city like Providence from becoming reality.

  • There have been numerous attempts to secure funding to fix Bomes and turn it into a community asset, but the problem isn’t the zoning, it is that the building is in such terrible shape that there hasn’t yet been enough money, or matching funds to even just fix the roof, which is unfortunate. For-profit developers are not exactly lining up to rehab old buildings on Broad street, unfortunately and from what I remember (I was on a board that worked on this specific issue more than 5 years ago) was that all the money was in the form of grants and CDBG monies, all of which I am sure have been taken back, or dried up because of the economy and time…

  • also regarding Grove Street School, the first thing that needs to happen is for the city to stop employing the man who owns it, and who has been in violation of every court in RI for the last 5 years. The fact that Michael Tarro is still an assistant city solicitor is easily the most disgusting part of this list. Again.

  • I’d like to see the Columbus, Castle cinemas restored. I don’t know much about the Bomes Theater, but if it were restored to a theater again, it could be like the Patriot in Pawtucket where it could be discounted films, or a performing arts center like the one in Cumberland near Ann & Hope. I think the Arcade should be restored to what it used to be, the owner of that property should sell it to someone who will ACTUALLY fill the building with small businesses. The Dynamo House makes me sad. I really would have liked to see what could have been with that property.

    Is it true they’re turning that garage into a surface lot? That’s foolish. Call me crazy, but demolishing a garage to turn it into a surface lot doesn’t make sense since people always complain about a lack of parking in this city. Surface lots are wasted space, like the urban equivalent of a hoarder that fills their house to the ceilings with useless clutter.

  • The Castle Theatre was donated to the R.I. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2008.

  • The interior of Bomes was pretty much gutted a long time ago. It would be new construction rather than a restoration as a theatre. There was a plan recently to convert two floors of the front half of the building for a non-profit office use and to warehouse the rear portion for development as a smaller theatre or auditorium at a later time. The group planning it may have had funding problems, since there’s been no announcement or activity.

    This entire list is extremely disturbing. The most egregious is the Arcade, the historic retail soul of the city and one of the most important architecturally, now mothballed. The Arcade doesn’t need to be redeveloped. It just needs to be leased or sold.

  • I like that the Outlet garage is on here too. It’s one of very few decent mid century buildings here, and it’s all that remains of downtown’s biggest department store. The thought of tearing down a garage to pave the land for a surface lot is enough to make your head explode. It shines a light on the level people will stoop to in order to dodge taxes.

  • More on the garage, Corey is right, surface parking lots are mainly about avoiding real estate taxes.

    Parking is a high profit business. Probably the next most profitable land uses are hotels and time-share apartments. The difference with surface parking is that the only upfront costs are for land, asphalt, concrete curbing, and an attendant’s shack. The typical cost for a surface parking space is between $12,000 and $15,000 per spot.

    With weekdays – day and evening, weekends, and special events parking, it’s probable that the entire investment can be paid off in as little as two years. If it’s a valet lot, maybe it could be paid off in even less time. Most everything that follows is profit. Is it any surprise that once a surface parking lot is installed in Providence, plan on it being around for at least three or four decades.

    An above-grade structured parking space costs roughly $25,000 to $30,000 each. I’m guessing, but assume the Outlet Garage has 360 spaces, if it were to be demolished, perhaps the surface parking lot replacing it would end up with 60 spots. Why is it that 360 spaces in a building is worth much less that 60 spaces on flat ground|Real estate taxes.

    If I’m not mistaken the city taxes surface lots as if they were vacant land with grass growing. The city doesn’t need to have a special parking tax approved by the General Assembly, though that would help. All the city has to do is determine an appropriate real estate tax rate for a surface parking lot, different from the rate for vacant land.

    Another possibility might be to reverse tax rates, put a higher rate on surface lots and a lower rate on public garages, the taller the garage and more spaces, the cheaper the rate. If it becomes less profitable to operate a surface lot, owners will be prompted to either build a garage on their empty lots or sell the lot to some one that will construct a new building on it instead.

  • It should also be noted that many of the people screaming about colleges and non profits eating up the city’s tax base are the same people dodging taxes themselves by knocking down buildings for parking. I shouldn’t have to name names here.

  • Has anyone in the General Assembly floated the idea of a special tax on surface parking? I can’t imagine such a proposal, if written reasonably, would have very many voters opposed, as lot owners are a small minority, and such a tax could only mean more revenues for the city.

  • Hopefully the church would be mothballed for now, since it’s not taxed. The cemetery surrounding the church is going nowhere. The remaining property, which includes the 1960s buildings along North Main, and the four-story office building on the hill, and parking lots could be sold off or developed?

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