UPDATED: Grove Street School ordered to be demolished by the City

In Buildings by Jef Nickerson52 Comments

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Update 08/30, 7:00pm:

Assistant City Solicitor Michael Tarro told The Associated Press he was terminated Tuesday but would not speculate on the reason. A spokesman for Mayor Angels Taveras said only that Tarro had been “separated” from city employment.


Update 08/27, 4:15pm:

Press Release from the City of Providence:

Grove Street School Building Owners Further Demolish Property after City Officials Revoke Demolition Permit

PROVIDENCE, RI – The owners of the former Grove Street School took down more of the building late this morning, without a demolition permit and despite a direct order not to proceed from the City of Providence Director of Inspections & Standards and the City’s Building Official.

Mayor Angel Taveras expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the property owners for again attempting to raze the historic building without authorization, and said the City will pursue all legal remedies against them including criminal and civil charges.

Late last night Mayor Angel Taveras and Ward 13 City Councilman Bryan Principe toured the partially demolished Grove Street School to discuss the Fire Marshal’s decision to condemn the building and pending actions to demolish the structure in advance of Hurricane Irene.

Early this morning, engineers came to the site and upon consultation were able to propose a strategy for securing the building through the storm. Serious issues remained with the building but officials believed that the structure could be temporarily secured.

Later this morning, a demolition crew hired by the property owner arrived at the 95 Grove Street property. The City of Providence’s Building Official and the Director of Inspections & Standards both informed the crew that the demolition permit had been revoked. Despite this order, the contractor entered the property and proceeded to further demolish the building until Providence police arrived.

Update 08/27, 11:00am:

From PPS via Facebook:

Executive Director James Hall, at Grove Street School now, reports that the City has concluded that it would be safer to secure the building than tear it down. An independent structural engineer has advised the city that the building can be made safe, although demolition could proceed next week.

We’ve received word that the City plans to demolish Grove Street School tomorrow morning citing risks related to Hurricane Irene.

From the Providence Preservation Society:

Earlier today I received word from Thom Deller [Providence Director of Planning and Development] that Kerry Anderson (building official) was moving to demolish the Grove Street School in anticipation of the hurricane. He and Bob Azar had requested a second opinion from a structural engineer.

I pointed out that no such action was being taken against the Dynamo House (ALSO OPEN TO THE WEATHER), or to the best of my knowledge, other buildings with scaffolding (which could become airborne) around the city.

Also, repeatedly, we have asked the city to go on the property to secure the building, which they have claimed they were legally unable to do. Tomorrow they wil finally act decisively but in a way which will damage this neighborhood. Their prirties are wrong.

The school needs your help. Please do anything you can, call anyone you can to stop this action and make it clear that this will be a negative national story for the administration, an that it is the wrong decision.

Press Release from the City:

Former Grove Street School Scheduled To Be Taken Down Tomorrow, Saturday, August 27

Partially Demolished Structure Poses Very Serious Safety Threat During Hurricane Irene

The former Grove Street School building has been declared a very serious safety hazard and will be demolished tomorrow, August 27, in advance of Hurricane Irene’s arrival in Providence.

Several weeks ago, the state Building Board of Review ordered the City of Providence to consider demolition of the partially demolished structure on Grove Street in Providence’s Broadway neighborhood citing serious concerns about the building’s structural integrity.

A site inspection was conducted on Thursday, August 25, and it was concluded that the building poses a very serious public safety hazard. It was determined today that there is a high probability for total building collapse and/or flying of loose structural and nonstructural components if demolition is not completed before Hurricane Irene’s arrival on Sunday.

The City Fire Marshal conducted a second evaluation today and condemned the building. The structure is scheduled to be completely demolished tomorrow by a private contractor paid for by the property owner.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Grove Street School building has to come down. Faced with the risk of collapse, and knowing that the building has been condemned by the Fire Marshal, we cannot put public safety at risk by allowing the structure to stand. I will aggressively pursue all legal options against the building owners, who attempted to raze the building without approval and succeeded in partially demolishing part of the building before being stopped by the City, and will hold them accountable for the loss of this historic property,” said Mayor Angel Taveras.

Previous posts about Grove Street School

About the Author

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.


  1. You just know Fucking Tarro has his hand in this. He is after all the one who violated a court order and started tearing it down.

    We better remember that come election time.

  2. I can’t think of anything to say about this that I haven’t said, or been saying for the past what…10 years? My disappointment in this decision and ALL the decisions leading up to this media advisory…I just don’t know what to say anymore.

  3. What are the odds that a demolition crew assembled on allegedly short notice will be able to bring down that building and clear the entire lot of all the dangerous “loose structural and non-structual components” in a single day?
    Highly unlikely in my opinion, there are multiple truckloads of material to remove in this case. I just watched the demolition of a single story brick ranch house a few weeks ago and the material for that lesser demo took three days to knock down, collect, and remove.
    This is an obvious act of crass opportunism, city hand in glove with scum Tarro’s who have never had to meaningfully redress the results of their illegal actions.
    This stinks, and the city appears to be again tainted by the stench of insider privilege.

  4. Oh. I thought of something. That press release went out at 9:10 pm? Is that right? after 9 pm on a FRIDAY basically on the eve of a terrible storm about to hit RI? Who is going to pay attention to it? Or was that the plan?

    Or was the release in response to the rumor getting out there? was the city even going to say anything about it or just send a crew out tomorrow to tear down a building that has been protected in appeal after appeal for the past 5 years, all the while owned by not only a city employee but an elected official?


  5. The Fire Marshall has the authority to condemn the building
    Does he also have the authority to order the demolition?
    What does the Building Inspector have to say about this?

  6. Disregard my previous comment. I missed the mention of the building official in the first paragraph.

  7. As lame as “hurricane Irene” is as an excuse, we all knew it was heading this way at one point or another.

  8. I can only hope that the Mayor follows through on his promise here:

    “I am deeply disappointed that the Grove Street School building has to come down. Faced with the risk of collapse, and knowing that the building has been condemned by the Fire Marshal, we cannot put public safety at risk by allowing the structure to stand. I will aggressively pursue all legal options against the building owners, who attempted to raze the building without approval and succeeded in partially demolishing part of the building before being stopped by the City, and will hold them accountable for the loss of this historic property,” said Mayor Angel Taveras.

  9. Wow. Who’s getting the overtime? Follow the money.

  10. One of the arguments against redevelopment that the Taro supporters were using was that the building contained asbestos, and the cost of cleanup would be prohibitively high. I wonder how this sped-up demolition will deal with the asbestos issue. When I was last in the building department, there was a sign up saying that any demolitions of commercial buildings after October of 2010 had to have an inspection for asbestos prior to demo.

  11. This is indeed sad. I feel like Providence, city and metro, needs to find the good version of Robert Moses and bring him or her to spearhead preservation and good urban/community development. We have a lot of great urban advocates like Jef trying to get the word out about these issues. We have been lucky to have developers like Cornish Associates that have preserved a majority of Downcity’s urban historic character. We have Providence Preservation Society trying to maintain the historic fabric of the city. We have Scott Wolf and Coalition of Transportation Choices advocating for investment in RI’s village and urban development pattern and transit. We have planning document after planning document trumpeting the kind of smart growth development we desire here in the city and region.

    On the other hand, we have a recession economy with the unemployment that goes with it. We have a city that is resting on a tenuous financial foundation. We have a real estate market that lends itself more to demolition than building. We have a I-195 commission with a lack of voices that would be advocating for things like complete streets.

    Something is missing, and I feel like someone like with strong visibility that will use the bully pulpit to push back on these negative issues that are reducing the vitality of our built environment will go a long way to improve things. The question is, who is this person?

  12. “the City… will hold them accountable… ”

    If Tarro ends up with their precious parking lot we will all know exactly what sort of “accountability” is in actual effect.

  13. Little by little, the fabric of this city is being punctured. Just in recent days: the Outlet Garage has been demolished; the Terminal Warehouse complex has been approved for demolition; and the Grove Street School has been essentially put on an altar for sacrifice. (With Abrahamic reluctance, too! Oh poor, poor Taveras…) We can, and will, lose this city if we’re not careful, and what looks necessary now will look myopic, perhaps even criminal, to future generations. They will know that they had been robbed of a city with real character; identifiable ties to is past; and an architecture that gave them a sense of pride and place.

    I could go on. But what I want to know is: has this started yet? Is someone on the scene with cameras? (I’m writing from an insuperable distance, and would love to be able to follow this.)

  14. I am not sure what I am more angry about, the actual loss of this building which by all accounts could have been an asset to this neighborhood, or the absolute REFUSAL of several administrations to actually do anything about it.

    This battle with the owners over the safety and viability of this building has been going on for YEARS. Each mayor says he will vigorously pursue blah blah blah and yet this is where we end up. If the order to take down the building now comes from the city itself and not even from the owner, who is the city going to pursue? It had its chance, for the last several years to go after Tarro for the illegal demo, for the continued neglect, for the public safety hazard it became and where did it get anyone? To the demolition day, on a saturday, with no notice.

    After the building was partially demoed would have been the second best time to take it by imminent domain (the first being before it was illegally partially demoed on a saturday morning). The property was worthless, according to the owner, so it should have been fairly cheap market value. Put out and RFP , maybe the Revolving Fund would have gotten involved.

    Please, let’s not forget that there has been interest in redeveloping this building for well over 10 years. This isn’t a building that someone bought and then lost their shirt in the real estate market and has been unable to unload it, and it sat slowing deteriorating to a point where it is a public hazard–that would be unfortunate enough.

    The actions on this building have been illegal and neglectful and deliberate since the day it didn’t revert back to the city when it wasn’t redeveloped in the time frame set out by the then administration.

    So yes, while we need to have the city be more aware that the fabric of the community is slowly and steadily being unraveled, to great detriment to the city’s history, and its future, THIS building has been victim to far more than benign neglect and good intentions that ran out of money. THIS building is a case study in “la plus ca change, la plus ca meme chose.”

    And that, I think, is most unfortunate and will haunt the city far longer than anyone ever thought it would.

  15. Towne Street said, “We have been lucky to have developers like Cornish Associates that have preserved a majority of Downcity’s urban historic character.”

    CORNISH TORE DOWN HALF A CITY BLOCK AND PUT UP A PARKING LOT … in the middle of the downtown !

    The buildings that Cornish (Buff Chace) demolished were full of low rent wig shops, urban clothing, and the Traveler’s Aid shelter – none of which are in line with the New Urbanist demographic of hipsters and Truman Show inhabitants. Parking lots, on the other hand, are ?

    The buildings Cornish restored along Westminster were not in danger of being destroyed and had tenants, including Lupo’s and Met Cafe, that were urban institutions and businesses that never left downtown until Cornish pushed them out. They are now replaced by pop-up store after pop-store (or good stores that can only last a year of two because there is not enough business to stay open). Surprise, the only one, Tazza, that keeps going, sells coffee and serves alcohol.

    Cornish is not the “good developer” no more than Struever Brothers were the “good developer.” But both were tight with Mayor Cicilline and they had no obstruction to demolishing the city (Cornish’s parking block) or abandoning it (Struever and the Dynamo House). Grove Street school RIP, you are in good political company.

  16. Sounds like there’s been a reprieve. PPS reporting from the site that an independent structural engineer has advised city to secure, rather than demo, building. It could still be demoed next week, however, although not sure what the pressing reason would be then. (Incidentally, I would have loved to see Tarro’s face when the reprieve was issued.)

  17. If you look back over the last 60 years, we can unfortunately find that the puncturing of the city’s fabric has been extensive. Look at any overhead shot of Elmwood Avenue or Broad Street, circa 1950 vs today, and the difference is substantial. How does a city overcome thousands of good manufacturing jobs lost along with the businesses that employed them and the tax base that they represented? How does a city overcome the fact that the government decided that paying for families to live in brand new, autocentric suburbs was prefereble to preserving the urban core, making the process for preserving buildings like Grove Street School complicated and expensive? 60 years of bad urban policy is hard to overcome, and there is no easy answer, especially given that the people who benefit from these policies appear to hold a high degree of influence. This is no excuse for not acting to reverse this, but the answers and solutions that we want will unfortunately not come quickly.

  18. I think the fair thing to do would be for the city to seize the property under eminent domain. It’s a fair punishment for someone who clearly doesn’t care about the law.

  19. so according to what i’m reading on the twitters and facebook, demo started, and then was halted by the mayor. the city will button up the building in anticipation of the hurricane/tropical storm.

  20. reports are now that the demo crew is back at the site, demo-ing, in violation of the stop work order. This is all so painfully familiar. Think the owner will lose his job THIS time?

  21. Wow, talk about no respect for authority. Why would any person want to be mayor when you have people whose response to a direct goverment order is to flip them the bird?

  22. Author

    I wish I could say that I expected more from an Assembly member and his family.

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  24. The story dances around it but the owners of 95 Grove St. are:

    Property Address
    95 Grove St
    Federal Hill
    Owner (12/31/07)
    STEPHEN S TARRO 25% Interest
    Richard M Tarro

  25. It may not be in Michael Tarro’s name, but he’s certainly not doing anything to stop it. He needs to resign from office. The city needs to sue the family for their expenses in all of this and sieze the property.

  26. A perusal of the Central Voter Registration Database shows that neither Richard or Stephen are registered voters in RI.

  27. Author

    The City is warning people to stay away from Shooters due to flying debris.


    And the area around South Main and Tockwotten is closed due to flying debris.

    South Main Street

    Yet, no one made any moves before the storm to secure these properties or issue an emergency demolition permit.

  28. @TonyP I think you won’t find those names in the voter registry because they are deceased. While I am not a lawyer, I will assume that the names of the deceased are still on the deed to the property because the building has been in and out of the courts for several years and thus, I suspect it can’t clear probate?

    There are very unfortunate familial tragedies attached to this building that go beyond the physical building itself. It is a very sad story all around.

  29. The fire marshall does not have the authority to condemn a building. That authority, by rule of law, is with the building department.

  30. City Takes On State Rep. Over Demolished Former School

    Monday, August 29, 2011
    Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News Contributor

    In an e-mail sent Sunday evening, Rep. Tarro told GoLocalProv that City Building Official Kerry Anderson told him the building’s demolition order had not been revoked and that the work would continue today.

    “Let me again state that Mr. Anderson indicated to me that he was ordering the immediate demolition of the structure and that he issued a demolition order and permit for demolition on August 26, 2011; that he revoked the permit on August 27, 2011, indicating to me that the sole reason was that demolition could not be completed before the storm; that the demolition order was not being revoked and is still in place; and that the demolition was to continue immediately after the storm on Monday, August 29, 2011, as soon as he issues a new demolition permit,” Tarro wrote.

  31. So, did destruction continue yesterday as well?

  32. I wonder how much the mafia is greasing ol’ Kerry’s pockets.

  33. Author

    Sources tell me that that is flat out not true. The demo permit has been permanently revoked and any demolition that happened is in violation of the law.

  34. Since you guys are know it alls……..Stephen is dead. Richard is alive and living in Mass. Get the facts correct people!

  35. Author

    Assistant City Solicitor Michael Tarro told The Associated Press he was terminated Tuesday but would not speculate on the reason. A spokesman for Mayor Angels Taveras said only that Tarro had been “separated” from city employment.


  36. I lived on Federal Hill all my life, the Tarro family bought the property with the intent to knock it down for parking. The had the permission to knock it down and them elections happened and things changed for the family which were not fair. I took a ride by their the other day and it is a hazard and should be knocked down as it was originally intended for parking so the Tarro Business can continue to service it’s community and pay it’s taxes as it has for nearly a century. He pays his taxes, the property belongs to him if someone wants it saved then let them make him an offer and begin the preservation progress, if not it belongs to Mike Tarro and he should do as was intended! Don’t forget they bought this a long, long time ago and have been paying ever since,
    Annette Berarducci

  37. Oops, that was me saying Richard was dead. Sorry. I was mixing him up with the father, who did die several years ago. My fault for not getting MY facts straight on that one.

    But since we’re getting facts straight, I am not sure the family have owned Grove Street School for 100 years. I agree that they have owned it a very long time (paying taxes the entire time) and had many opportunities to get a legal demolition permit and chose not to for whatever reason, and as a result of waiting, they actually were out of compliance with the agreement they made with the city to redevelop the lot (even for parking) in a timely fashion when they bought the building from the city.

    And that is one of the main reasons why the community was able to legally keep the building from coming down for a huge parking lot that even the funeral home management company said in a public meeting they didn’t need.

    And that would be why the property owners resorted to an illegal Saturday demolition in 07, and clearly last Saturday’s revisit of that day with yet another attempt at illegal demolition.

    Also, there have been many parties interested in buying and restoring the building and they were rebuffed at every turn. Even interested in buying it partially demolished, to no avail.

    Folks can complain all they want about property rights, but just like you, regular people, don’t have a right to burn down your house or place of business just because you’d like a parking lot, or even a community garden or a dog park, Assistant City Solicitors/State Reps are not allowed to raze historic and protected buildings without the appropriate and legitimate permission from the city.

    So while I am sure there will continue to be plenty of chatter and controversy around this, and lots of neighborhood support for and against preservation, for and against the family, the law doesn’t change just because someone is your friend, or neighbor.

  38. I’m glad he was fired. He deserved it. Now he should gracefully step down from his office in the state house or perhaps his fellow reps in the GA should bring him up on ethics charges. The people of this city and state don’t need scumbags like him representing us anymore (yes, anyone who thinks they’re above the law is, IMO, a scumbag, especially if they hold a position of power… in his case 2 positions of power).

  39. @Jen Coleslaw: Well said.

    The recent turn of events involving Tarro is long overdue, though I am unsure if this will be enough to halt total demolition of the structure…

  40. I think the entire situation is sad.

    – The constant cry for more surface parking? Sad.
    – The fact that the city made this deal in the first place without ever enforcing their sales agreement to the Tarros. Sad.
    – The fact that the Tarros didn’t understand the changing laws and GSS’s place as an historic structure? Sad.
    – The fact that it is kind of unfair that other more significant buildings were lost because those developers somehow had more clout (if I were the Tarros, I would personally be really annoyed that Public Safety Complex, Grant’s Block, Circle Gas Station, et al became surface parking without much of an official complaint.)? Sad.
    – The fact that the Tarro family is bereft with various tragedy. Sad.

    But, none of the sad changes the fact an official working for the city should absolutely not be allowed to blatantly and openly defy the law and create a public hazard, yet continue to be employed by the city whose laws he so willfully disregarded. It is sad that he has to lose his job, but sadder still that he brought it on himself through the stereotypical RI hubris of thinking the law did not apply to him.

  41. @Brick

    Excellent summary of all of the issues from a variety of standpoints and, indeed as you say, all very sad, especially the self inflicted elements.

  42. just as an aside, there was a lot of action and advocacy around the Circle Gas Station (only after the fact though since i seem to remember it being demoed on a weekend too) and the Public Safety Complex (in zoning, and in court.) There were plenty of official complaints and I think the city even took Paolino to court at the time of the gas station demo. Just didn’t win.

  43. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I know there was a lot of advocacy, but what I mean is all that stuff happened and there was almost no consequence for the demo’ers.

  44. Author

    In the case of the Public Safety Complex at least, everything was done legally. My memory is much foggier on the Circular Gas Station.

  45. Author

    According to the post about it on Art In Ruins, the circular gas station demo was both illegal (in that it happened without a permit (and a mid-century building such as it was likely riddled with Asbestos no less)), and resulted in a fine (which likely was paltry and paid off with an 1/8 of the proceeds from parked cars for a American Idol concert).

    Also, Paolino at one point successfully sued the city to get the Historic District provisions overturned putting the Narrow Building on Washington Street and others at risk of demolition before the city was able to amend the laws.

  46. Author


    Several weeks ago, the state Building Board of Review asked the city to consider demolishing the school. Anderson and the city fire marshal concluded Thursday that the school | built in 1901 for the growing Federal Hill neighborhood | “poses a very serious public-safety hazard” and should come down, said a Friday news release from the mayor. The demolition permit was granted.

    How often does the State Building Board of Review get involved in local issues?

    PS: “Several weeks ago,” nothing to do with the Hurricane.

  47. Author

    [Michael Tarro] said no further demolition occurred after Anderson returned with an order revoking the permit.

    When I went by at 5pm a large beam was being pulled out of the building.

  48. I think Tarro was continuing his appeal to the US Supreme Court (or wait til the building fell apart by a combo of demolition and malicious neglect) by going up the food chain to the Board Of Building Review

  49. Also, if i remember correctly regarding the gas station, aside from the illegal demo, there was a whole issue on whether the building lot was on an A street (which has certain protections) or a B street (which doesn’t.) That, i think, is the battle that the city lost in court which significantly reduced what the fine would have been.

  50. The family bought it in the mid 1980’s for $10,000. So they haven’t had it for a hundred years, only about a quarter that time.

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