Categories

Economic Development by Surface Parking

Fogarty Building

On the agenda [.pdf] for Monday’s Zoning Board of Review meeting is a proposal by The Procaccianti Group (TPG) to demolish the Fogarty Building at 133 Fountain Street. A variance is requested to use the vacated lot for surface parking as a “transitional use.”

PRI XII, LP: 133 Fountain Street* (at Sabin & Mathewson Streets), Lot 422 on the Tax Assessor’s Plat 25 located in a Downtown D-1 Central Business Zone and the Downcity Overlay District; the applicant is seeking use and dimensional variances from Sections 303-use code 64.1(Footnote 5), 502.5, 502.5(A), 502.5(B), 502.5(D), 502.5(E) and 502.5(F) to demolish the existing building and to use the subject property for a surface parking lot as a transitional use. The lot in question contains approximately 22,796 square feet of land area

*The building is actually at 111 Fountain Street.

Take a wild guess why TPG wants to tear this building down. Hardship due to property taxes, which will be reduced if the building is removed from the property.

Sigh.

Why don’t we just put a giant welcome to Houston sign on Route 95? Oh wait, Houston is actually building infill now and has a light rail line and everything. Soon we won’t even be as nice as Houston. But we’ll have some kick ass parking and nowhere to go.

A number of sources tell me this newfound desire to remove the building is being driven by Mayor Taveras’ newly appointed Economic Development Director, Jim Bennett. TPG asked for Mr. Bennett’s help in reducing their tax burden and shortly thereafter, TPG is applying for a variance and doing an end-run around the Downcity Design Review Committee. Mr. Bennett is now living in the Regency Apartments, owned by TPG (TPG does not own the Regency).

Let’s think this through a bit. One of the new Economic Development Director’s first acts is to counsel a developer on tearing down a building and creating a surface lot. This is economic development?

TPG, you may recall, already has a parking lot on Fountain Street, the Old Public Safety Building Memorial Parking Lot™. That “transitional” “temporary” parking lot was built in the summer of 2007. Actually, they already park cars at 111 Fountain Street, in a garage below the building.

So why oh why is a building that is generating revenue, parking cars, being proposed to be torn down to create a surface lot to park cars?

Allow me to be on the side of the developer for a minute. It is no secret that the economy sucks, especially here in Providence. The real estate market is in the toilet, vacancies are high, and it is hard to get capital from banks to improve properties.

The Fogarty Building no doubt needs renovation or outright replacement (TPG was close to Downcity DRC approval on replacing the building with a parking structure with ground level retail back in 2007). The property taxes combined with the cost to renovate or replace the building means that the rent TPG would have to charge is too high to attract tenants in this market. Though they are able to make some money on the parking, the taxes continue to mount with no clear way to get the building occupied and generating its full potential revenue.

I would also assume that a bank presented with these facts would not be likely to finance the needed renovations or building replacement anyway, meaning even if some sucker could be found to pay the high rent, there’s not enough money to make the needed improvements.

This has been a problem at least since the recession began in 2007 and aside from the early 2000s bubble, has been a problem in Providence for decades. Unable to afford their taxes, owners seek to remove their buildings to reduce their tax rate. They may go through proper channels, use a relationship they have with government officials to facilitate demolition, simply allow a building to rot away (demolition by neglect), simply tear down the building and pay the meager fines, or just light the joint on fire. However it happens, we all know it is happening and for whatever reason, we’ve never been able to do anything to change it.

Forgive one for being hopeful that with the Mayor creating a cabinet level position of Economic Development Director, we’d finally get someone to address this. Color me disappointed that that is not the case, thus far at least.

What can we do to change this? We’ve discussed it before of course. We cannot continue to have tearing down your building and paving your lot equivalent to winning the tax lottery. The tax rates on parking lots need to come up to make them less tempting to building owners. But how do we address TPG’s dilemma of having taxes be too high and an economy that won’t let the numbers work to allow them to renovate and populate a sub par building? How can we provide a carrot to go with the surface parking tax stick?

There’s a reason I did not apply for the position of Economic Development Director, it is not my forté, but let’s play Economic Development Director on the internet.

Could we create a Decrepit Building Stabilization Program of some kind? Take a building like Fogarty and work with the developer, give them tax reductions and stabilization so they can get financing, renovate their building, and transform it into a place that contributes to the city’s economic development, rather than sitting empty and doing nothing good for anyone.

We would need to work with Smith Hill too, generating jobs and business in a building by giving property tax breaks does not make the City whole as we depend on property taxes to fund ourselves. So let’s get the state to give us a cut of the tax generated from the resultant economic development, a portion of the sales or income taxes, or in the case of residential properties, a portion of the income taxes generated from the rent or a portion of the taxes generated by the sale.

The City gives up part of its property tax to generate economic activity which would not otherwise exist; in return the state shares some of the tax money the City’s actions generated (which would not exist if the City did not take a hit on property taxes) with the City. Over time the stabilization and reduction deal would phase out and the City’s share of the state taxes would drop as the property tax was normalized.

Or hey, this whole funding on the backs of property owners is not actually working out that well, maybe sharing with the state in economic development is the new paradigm going forward.

Like I said, economic development is not my bag, feel free to tell me why this idea is crazy.

What can’t continue though is tearing away the structural fabric of our city piece by piece; building “temporary” parking waiting for some mythical future when the market will support rebuilding the city we destroyed. Some morning soon we’re going to wake up and Providence won’t be here anymore, it will just be a sea of parking with no destinations left for that parking to serve.

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46 Responses to Economic Development by Surface Parking

  1. Andy September 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Whatever happened to TPG’s “Power Block?” Is it now the “Power Parking Lot?”

  2. Andy September 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Also, I truly believe Providence is a city that “if you build it, they will come.”

    The universities, Providence Place, The Dunk, Convention Center, Skating Rink, Greater Kennedy Plaza Events, Westminster St., Sound Session, Water Place Park, WaterFire, Gourmet Heaven… even P.F. Chang’s and Panera Bread! are all examples of this.

    No one wants to go hang out where there is nothing to hang out at. How can one go shopping if there is no retail? Why would anyone want to walk through a sea-city of parking lots to get where they’re going?

    I met the marketing director of Panera Bread three years ago in a business and branding course at URI. I asked her, “Does Panera have any plans to move into the Providence market?” She said, “No, there is not enough foot traffic.” She had obviously not been in downtown during lunch hour or worked in Providence Place when the only lunch option is the food court.

    Why do these businesses skip out on our city- more so the downtown? Three years later, Panera Bread opens at [albeit] Providence Place Mall and with lines out the door! tables packed! with business people, mall employees, shoppers and day trippers.

    Can’t we or folks like TPG image conventioneers, Westin Hotel (TPG owned?) guests, Dunk sports fans and area visitors, not to mention local residents, because people DO ACTUALLY LIVE IN PROVIDENCE patronizing a Fogarty retail destination? A place “before the game” hangout? How do places like as220, Westminster St., Thayer St. survive?

    Build it and they, we will come… and fix the tax code too.

  3. barry September 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    As I’ve posted before, one of the underlying problems:
    too much parking for transit to succeed, but not enough parking to eliminate the need for transit nor be as easy and cheap as the suburbs. This is inherent in beng a city. So drivers are frustrated, our transit is inadequate, and the city suffers. The only solution I see is $10 gas as in Europe where many cities succeed, even with plenty of cars they take advantage of the fact they have good transit service from all directions, the suburbs do not (as is the case in Providence also)
    I can’t imagine ever using the surface lot in question, even if I drive downtown, I’d rather hunt for a street spot.

  4. Jen Coleslaw September 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    More disappointment. I am beginning to fear that there are now more days I am glad I’m not a PVD tax payer than there are days that I miss the place. And you guys know that is saying something.

    But, I THINK that there has always been an Economic Development Director. For a while it was Thom Deller wearing two hats (i think, when he was head of Providence Economic Development Corp?) and for a while it was Alix Ogden’s husband, so I think Jim Bennett is merely a new hire.

    I met the head of the Economic Development Authority for Fairfax County two weeks ago. He made it very clear that his job is to get more tax dollars from businesses into the County. Not to come up with tax breaks, favors, and sweet deals so that businesses can make the place worse. And, for those of you who know FFX, THAT is really saying something.

    PS let me guess, they want to tear down the building for parking but when the Journal building goes on the clearance rack, they’ll be right there with the checkbook to buy that. Book it.

    PPS which developer has torn down the most buildings for parking while at the same time either maintaining or creating new developments outside the city?

  5. SK September 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    The Bliss Parking lot is the only sufrace lot I use in Providence. I find surface parking to be nothing more than a waste of space. There’s so much potential in what Providence could become. I love the city, but I can’t take seeing all this flat land anymore. Retail, office, studio space could all be built in these empty lots. I say we should make some ridiculous luxury tax on surface lots. That’ll wake them up.

  6. Jef Nickerson September 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Power Parking Lot?

    Andy, the Panera irony is that they were rumored to be looking at occupying the retail at the parking garage TPG proposed for this spot 4 years ago!

    I agree with the building it and they will come (with the caveat that we need to fix some of our tax issues in order to make it possible for people to build). I’m certainly not “oh, poor developers,” but there is a reality to the issues they face in this economy and this market.

    The build it and they will come issue is why I’m so confused about why we are all so damn worked up about the 195 land. In the grand scheme of how much land is underdeveloped in this city, the 195 land is nothing (once you take away the acreage for the streets and parks, and what J&W already has laid claim to).

    Tearing down the highway is a good story to tell to get investors attention, but tearing down the highway alone is not going to get developers to come running to Providence when we already have a vast surplus of develop-able property throughout the city (from North Main, through Capital Center, Downcity, the Jewelry District, the Hospital area and elsewhere).

    We can use the highway removal as the hook, but then we have to sell Providence’s real assets. Parking is not an asset, it is part of a list of things developers and businesses consider when relocating, but it is not the end all and be all, all cities have parking. They don’t all have our history, beaches, restaurants, colleges & universities, access to Boston and New York, entrepreneurial spirit, and so on. All cities are not building a streetcar line and planning to improve their transit system (if our funding problems ever get properly addressed).

    We can’t just say look, we tore down the highway, yay! There’s real work that needs doing to market the city and create tax structure and development policy and zoning and all the other hard things we need to be competitive on to play in the big leagues.

    Paving the city and putting up a parking lot is amateurish.

  7. Andrew I September 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Preach it, Jef.

    “funding on the backs of property owners is not actually working out that well”

    Property tax should apply only the value of land, regardless of improvements. This would bring relief to homeowners and landlords who actually maintain space in which people live and work. It would create strong incentives to build most intensely on the most valuable land. Voila, a real city!

  8. Peter Friedrichs September 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    If you want to stop people tearing down buildings and replacing them with parking lots, then ask your elected representatives to do that. You can start with the ZBR on Monday. Demand a moratorium. The city needs to review the effect these demolitions are having on the livability of our downtown and the city’s coffers. We understand businesses are hurting, but so is the city. During the moratorium a committee can look at things like increasing the rate on surface parking or not permitting it as a zoning use downtown.

  9. Andy September 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I concur and therefor is why you are our leader!

  10. New Resident September 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Not originally from the city, but from the very beginning I have had a love/hate relationship. This place has so much potential, but it’s just not seen like it could be. How can people not see that taxes drive away residences and businesses. LOWER taxes and we might see some really cool buildings replace these surface lots along with some renovated houses in some dying neighborhoods. What do we spend all of our money on in this city? Politicians? Maybe the government should try letting the private sector generate the revenue themselves by getting out of the way.

  11. Jen Coleslaw September 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    I am not sure there are enough fingers on mine, jef’s and at least five other people’s hands to count the number of times in the last 12 years that residents have asked for a demo moratorium on buildings for parking lots. The decisions to approve these demos are not really made in a vacuum. There is often plenty of input from those who wish the city not get turned into a gigantic surface parking lot.

    In fact, if we added up all the pro-bono hours that lawyers have donated over the years trying to defend these buildings, we probably could have bought a few of them ourselves and redeveloped them.

  12. Will H. September 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Back in 2009 David Segal had pushed the idea of demolition bonds, held by the city when a building was demoed until a new project (not parking) was complete. This might not directly address the economic hardship issue, but was a possible step to take towards fewer demolitions for convenience. Does anyone have an idea of what the support for the bond proposal was like before it was killed ‘for further study’?

  13. Tony P September 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    Its’ simple. Tax parking lots at three to four times the rate you’d tax property. Problem solved.

    And TPG has let the Fogarty building fall into disrepair so who in their right mind would lease it? Now I think about it, here’s another proposal.

    When a group threatens to tear down a building and leave a parking lot take the building and property by eminent domain.

  14. Peter Brassard September 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I vaguely remember that any demolition bond proposal had to be approved by the General Assembly. Wasn’t the demolition bond idea proposed at the end of the Cicillini administration? Since taking office Mayor Taveras has been almost completely consumed by the budget crisis, so this issue hasn’t been at center stage.

    With the recent multiple demolition applications or executions, the City Council and Mayor should revive this proposal and/or immediately enact a demolition moratorium as has been suggested repeatedly. If nothing is done soon the city will continue loosing its tax base, when it can least afford it. These new “temporary” or “traditional” surface parking lots will scar the city for years as new construction will be very slow to return.

  15. JBouchard September 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Just a quick note;
    Having worked for Procacccianti Group for (only) 2 years back in 2006-2008, I remember having to park in the garage at the Fogarty Building while the Hilton’s garage was resurfaced… the parking situation at Fogarty is very limited – at the time, there were piles of debris from torn out holes in the ceiling – horrible lighting issues, and only one entrance via garage doors.
    Many of the piles of debris were taking up needed parking spaces, therefore, rendering the parking for employees only (very few spaces)…

    TPG leases out their parking through a 3rd party valet company -City Parking & Valet (http://citypvs.com/) and they reap the greater benefit of all parking revenue – not TPG.

    Also – there was mention that TPG also owns the Regency?
    The complex is owned by Chestnut Hill Realty based out of Boston: http://chestnuthillrealty.com/about-us

    TPG has been rumored to be eye-ing the Providence Biltmore, once a broker is found and the building put on the market – that might hint at a revamped “power block”, so only time will tell.

  16. Jef Nickerson September 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    TPG had a nebulous plan to re-imagine the Regency site years ago, I do not know if they ever actually owned it. The LLC that is listed in the Tax Accessors database was formed in 2008. I have amended the original post to note that TPG does not currently own the Regency.

    As for the condition of the parking garage, the fact is that they use it for parking, they generate income off of it, and the rates for some events verge on price gouging. If they’ve decided to off load the parking management to a third party, and the third party is reaping the benefits, then that is TPG’s poor business decision.

    TPG acquired the Fogarty Building with various plans to renovate it and/or tear it down for a new structure. For whatever reason, back in 2007 when these plans were proposed, they were not able to make them happen. That does not mean their fall back position should be to tear down the building and pave the lot. The fact that that seems to be the common business plan for pretty much every developer in town is a problem that the city has no small part in perpetuating.

    Certainly a job of an Economic Development Director is to meet with businesses and developers and hear their issues. TPG comes to the City and says, “damn, this recession is killing us, the taxes and the costs of renovating and maintaining this building are out of control, please help.”

    OK, let’s help. Our government has the power to legislate at the city and state level. We have ways to abate taxes, help with financing, seek grants and loans… Tearing down a building is stupendously lazy and short sighted. And if this is a sign of where this administration’s economic development policies are going, then I’ve lost faith in this administration’s ability to think outside the box, be creative, and build a better Providence.

  17. Jef Nickerson September 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    The language of Rep. Segal’s demolition bonds legislation is here.

    I do not recall what happened to that legislation, I think it got lost in the Assembly’s annual, ‘let’s pass 800 bills in 10 hours at the last possible moment’ marathon.


    We asked candidate Taveras about demolitions in our candidate survey, here is that question and his answer:

    4. Demolitions
    During the boom years in the middle of the last decade we saw a substantial amount of development, but what we also saw, especially Downcity, is a substantial number of buildings demolished for projects that never came to fruition. How will your administration hold developers accountable for not following through on projects? How will your administration focus development on lots that are currently vacant (such as surface parking lots) and discourage or ban the demolition of existing buildings?

    The former police headquarters. The City Gulf station. The buildings once adjacent to the Arcade. The Providence Fruit & Produce Warehouse. The Grove Street School. All of these buildings have been demolished and most today are little more than vacant lots.

    In the last legislative session, State Representative David Segal proposed a bill (H-7584) that would have required developers to make firm commitments to local communities before they bulldoze local landmarks. Additionally, the bill would have allowed historic district commissions to consider the effects of demolition on the architectural, cultural, historical, archaeological, social, aesthetic and environmental character of the surrounding neighborhood.

    While this bill did not pass at the state level, I would introduce and support a similar ordinance at the City level. Our historic architecture is part of what makes Providence a unique, special place to live and work. It gives our city character and a soul. I will use City Hall to protect our historic architecture, to ensure smart growth and planning and put an end to the development tragedies like 110 Westminster.

    Feel free to remind the Mayor of this.

  18. Towne Street September 23, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    They still can’t tear it down without DRC approval. DRC never approved this, correct?

  19. Sam September 24, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    “Its’ simple. Tax parking lots at three to four times the rate you’d tax property. Problem solved.”

    Can’t say I’d feel guilty over this solution, either. The lots would still make money hand over fist.

    I think part of the problem in play is that people are only thinking about large-scale, megablock projects when they consider what might replace a surface parking lot — a hotel, a parking garage, an office complex, etc. Developers in this day and age don’t want to get their hands dirty with a bunch of smaller projects occupying smaller footprints. Nobody wants to think multi-use: too many details, too much management, too many headaches. Developers all want to hit the proverbial homerun, financially speaking. But that’s how real downtowns are formed everywhere else in the world (and when I say real downtowns, I mean vibrant, urban places, not just megacities). Land that has inherent value by virtue of location is put to use with people living and working on it. If a more profitable use emerges at some uncertain time in the future, the land will still be there. It’s not going anywhere — unless we’re talking about southern California.

    Help the developers find a little creativity: hike the tax on surface lots and watch them scramble to put something useful on their land.

  20. Alon Levy September 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    This is where a land value tax could be useful. If parking lots and buildings are taxed at the same dollar value, developers will have an incentive to build higher-value uses.

    Another thing that’s even more important is selling the land in small chunks, to allow small developers to compete. The ideal size of a lot is a single normal building, and each lot should be put up at its own little auction. As Sam says, this is how real neighborhoods evolve.

  21. Jen Coleslaw September 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Debbie Downer says that the state house doesn’t care about Providence’s parking lot problems, and that the developers have better paid help than the city does. I would eat my hat if the city was able to get the permission/ability from state legislators to tax vacant land at a much higher rate in order to encourage development.

    The city needs to learn how to say “NO” to the crocodile tears of developers who either bite off more than they can chew or are just gobbling up land for speculation.

  22. Alon Levy September 25, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Does the state house even view Providence as having a problem of too much rather than too little parking? I sincerely doubt your average Assemblycritter has read Donald Shoup on the subject.

  23. Sam September 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Considering the massive (and embarrassing) amount of surface parking abutting the Statehouse and its auxiliary buildings, I doubt the politicos would ever consider any amount of surface parking to be too much.

  24. Peter Brassard September 25, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Most of the state politicos are suburbanites – think suburban shopping centers/malls – that’s the baseline.

    This is primarily a city problem. The city has a set of lousy land-use regulations, the bulk of which are from the early 1950s when car culture took off in full force across the country. Only a few years earlier, 1948, the ubiquitous streetcar system was discarded in favor of freeways by the state and city. That was the fashion of the day, which we are paying for now.

    The state hasn’t helped with its tepid support of mass transit.

    It’s too easy to blame developers, most of whom are opportunistic. Existing laws have supported this opportunism.

    The only way any major initiative is ever passed in Rhode Island is if there is substantial political support and advocacy from a mayor or governor. Usually politicians listen and act when their constituents protest en masse.

    Don’t just write about this on this blog. Inform the mayor directly as to how you feel about this topic and give him specific constructive suggestions as how this situation might be solved.

  25. James September 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I have been assured by the Acting Director of Inspections and Standards that hearing this item has been postponed.

    I hope that that is the case. We (PPS) have also asked the Mayor (twice) to enact a moratorium on demolition–he has (twice) demurred.

    The Mayor has stated in a meeting with PPS the Revolving Fund, and WBNA and members of his staff that he is opposed to more surface parking in Providence–not only downtown, but in the neighborhoods as well. (

    Thank you for posting his response to your question from back when he was a candidate.

    As to the Fogarty Building

  26. James September 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Continuing….
    Referring to the blight of surface parking, the Mayor cited the area around RI Hospital as well.

    Back to Fogarty….

    We need as citizens to look closely and objectively at Mid- 20th Century buildings. The Fogarty Building was top of the line when it was built, and even in spite of the damage done to it through neglect by the current owners. The quality of its construction would be hard to match today, and merely because the building is out of fashion is no reason to allow it’s demolition. I would go so far as to say that it is the best building of it’s kind downtown. Most of the vitriol leveled against expressionistic concrete buildings of this type was, in another generation, used as an excuse for demolishing buildings of the Second Empire Style. Our own City Hall was targeted for demolition in the 1960s by the city’s civic and business leaders.

    The building is merely dirty, and boarded up. It is NOT bad architecture. It deserves to be saved. re-purposed, and reconsidered. PPS will need the support of all of the people on this blog who are outraged, and who we hope will attend the next meeting of the ZBR where the issue is heard.

  27. brick September 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Even as someone who wishes brutalism never happened, I have to agree with James. Why wash it out of our history through neglect and demolition?

  28. James September 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    Hey Brick-
    I can see now that I’ll have to fast-tack my “Why I Love Brutalism Weekend” (weren’t you impressed with my euphemism “expressionistic concrete architecture”?)

    We’ll get you to see its good points yet! It was meant to be quite humanistic and “Green” in its day–an antidote to what was considered “soul-less steel and glass corporate monoliths “!

  29. Jef Nickerson September 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    I really like the Fogarty Building, the one problem I have with it is the way it sits up on a podium removed from the sidewalk. So as a human walks by it, they are walking against a wall. I’m sure a competent architect could address that without compromising the butalist style that makes the building interesting in the first place (that podium also creates ADA issues).

    I could see a realigning of Mathewson Street between the Fogarty and the ProJo building to allow the Fogarty to have more space to address the podium issue.

    I really like the view of the building walking from LaSalle Square along Sabin Street, it adds a really interesting texture to the street-wall, something that would obviously disappear if the building were to be taken.

  30. brick September 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    James, I suggest you name the weekend “Breton Brut” which sounds whimsical and fun and maybe involving alcohol. Brutalist sounds like getting punched in the gut.

    Actually other than Jef’s concerns I would call this an example of brutalism gone right…as opposed to say UMass Dartmouth.

  31. James September 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    Okay–Jef’s right—not very urban perched up on that plinth, but here’s an observation that I talk about when I’m out talking to groups about preservation–the building right next to it (formerly Blue Cross, which is on my list of buildings that could come down) does precicely thae same thing–same plinth, same setback–even similar railing details–except the offending structure goes a further damning step toward suburban office park with the middle-market foundation plantings. And wierdly no one objects. I know you guys probably aren’t fans….

  32. James September 26, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    And just to be a bit provacative about buildings that are not very friendly on the sidewalk, and not very ADA compliant, can anybody say….”City Hall?” Talk about up on a podium! Love the building, but I do think we have different rules when it comes to the late 19th century….

  33. Jef Nickerson September 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Oh, I hate the One LaSalle Square Building. However, it could be fixed by poking holes in the ground floor. I would love to see Hasbro do something interesting at least with the LaSalle Square facing lobby, day light it, expose it to the street, put a damn toy store in there. And I’d love the building to be wrapped in LED displays.

    To fix the Fogarty’s podium problem and address the ADA issues would likely require changing the nature of the building. There’s just a balance between fixing what makes it less than great from an urbanist perceptive versus what makes it an historically valuable building. Tough, I think in the hands of the right architect, it could work.

    The Washington Street entrance to the Central Library addresses its ADA issues with a ramp that integrates well into the building.

    I think City Hall might not be the best example, it is a government building and the being on a pedestal nature is part of the message it is trying to send. It is part of its grandeur, I think a City Hall would feel weird if it was at ground level and all glassy and typically friendly to the street. It is meant to be a monument to democracy.

    Now the Superman Building, that thing hates the street.

  34. James September 27, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    1. Fogarty was Gov’t originally too.
    2. Well-spotted on Industrial Trust Tower

    I just bring up the whole podium/pedestal/plinth thing because it’s hard to set absolutes. I always talk about creating a pedestrian friendly streetscape, but some buildings simply break the rules. I’m certain that the Fogarty Building’s architects were striving for a sense of monumentality and nobility as well.
    Sadly the two buildings in Providence that are getting the most press right now for the fact that they are recently re-occupied by new, high-profile tenants are two of the worst buildings architecturally in the Downtown neighborhood.It points out once again the stark difference that can exist between “architecture” and “real estate”.

  35. Bret Ancowitz September 27, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    I actually whispered to someone I know who works at Hasbro about Jef’s idea about LaSalle and he loved it, but I don’t know his level of influence…

    @Peter:
    Regarding the city’s land use, I attended a series of charrettes back in what, 2006? That was supposed to be part of a process to address just these kinds of issues. Now, over 5 years later, I’ve since had 3 relationships, gotten married, helped create 2 beautiful daughters, and been in 3 different working environments and what has become of this comprehensive planning process in that time?

    @James:
    Totally agree on preserving the few brutalism examples PVD has…

  36. Jef Nickerson September 27, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    My problem with the Fogarty is that it is part of a set of buildings that hate the street, plus it is on a pair of streets important for connecting Downcity with Federal Hill. The ProJo Building, Fogarty, and One LaSalle Square all in a row are terrible for the street. Across Sabin you have the Convention Center, which, considering it is a Convention Center actually isn’t terrible to the street, it is glass and there are things to look at, the arcade protects pedestrians from the weather, you can see people inside if there is an event, there’s some art (such as it is), etc. The Convention Center wouldn’t be so bad if the other side of the street weren’t completely dead, it is sad that the Convention Center is the most animated building on the block.

    Fountain is a bit better though it has parking garage, parking lot, Sportsman’s Inn, then some interest at the street at the Cosmopolitan Building, parking lot, coffee shop, office building, parking lot.

    One LaSalle probably has the best chance structurally of being better to the street if it had an extreme make over, punching holes in the ground level and putting retail in there, but that extreme makeover is unlikely, leaving the Fogarty as the one that would take over as most likely. Simply having the ground (or ground plus 1/2) floor occupied and lit with people going in an out, even if they are removed from the street level, would go a long way toward making that building less hostile. An ADA solution on at least one side could open up the building more, like the new ramp at The Dunk lessened the wall facing LaSalle Square.

    There are some times when the street is going to not be addressed in as urban a way as would be desired. Not every one of our streets can be a retail zone or even a residential zone. It is something that is being discussed in the re-zoning committee. Which streets do we prioritize for urban activity and which streets do we let go and how do we make those streets we let go not be totally dead?

  37. Jef Nickerson September 27, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Bret, you remember that GC:PVD started as a platform to discuss the charrettes. GC:PVD’s 5th birthday is October 8th. So it was that long ago.

  38. Peter Brassard September 27, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Last night the owner’s attorney requested by email a continuance for 133 Fountain Street, which was granted by the ZBR. The hearing for the property was rescheduled to the ZBR November 1st meeting.

  39. Produce September 27, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    So allow them to tear down the building, that seems inevitable. But why not disallow a parking lot and propose other uses.

    A market garden using containers and raised beds sounds like a good way to put people to work and actually produce (not consume) something on the land. Perhaps it’s even food used by the downtown restaurants (this is becoming popular practice in NYC).

    If you really need to park something on that land, make it a mobile food truck and throw a few benches and tables/chairs in to create a living environment.

    Why raze and pave when you can raise and grow.

  40. Peter Brassard September 27, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Urban farming exists in Providence neighborhoods and along marginal edges of the city. It’s not inevitable that the building will be demolished. There is already parking on the land-a slightly below grade garage that covers the entire lot footprint. The owner of the building could immediately derive income from parking. That income would likely not pay the real estate taxes and other expenses that the building generates. The best scenario for both the city and the owner would be to find a tenant(s) for the building.

  41. Jef Nickerson September 27, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    We have plenty of land available for urban agriculture and food trucks. There’s no need to tear down buildings for those activities.

  42. Claude Masse October 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    With all the garnering this great city has received ,it’s amazing that there will be more surface parking over building.Please don’t sink into a Hartford mentality.I see Hartford every day,it’s a parking lot fatass’s favorite landscape.Providence has boots on the sidewalks.Don’t let the “old school” inform you Providence.Those smoky backrooms?You can tear them down.Trees,Seats,High Density!!Maybe a gate to a “High Line”.Go Tall,anything but cigar smokin’ parking lot types.

  43. Jef Nickerson November 1, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    According to ProJo, The Procaccianti Group has indefinitely postponed their plans to tear down the Fogarty Building.

  44. Towne Street March 27, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Mayor Taveras has released his economic plan. Among the proposals is this:

    Taveras will also ask the City Council to pass a tax-stabilization ordinance for surface parking lot owners that will exempt them from paying additional real estate taxes for three years, with the remainder of the tax balance phasing in incrementally over nine years, if they commit to developing their property.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fogarty Building parkinglotification on Zoning Board agenda for Nov. 1st | Greater City: Providence - October 28, 2011

    […] For more information and to comment, see our previous post. […]

  2. ProJo: Tax-break plan for proposed Providence hotel to get a hearing July 23 | Greater City Providence - July 20, 2015

    […] Procaccianti Group proposes extended-stay hotel for downtown Providence (May 2014) Economic Development by Surface Parking (Sept. […]

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