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The good news is the façade will be saved

The bad news is the pocket park in that rendering, was artistic license.

35 Weybosset

PPS Executive Director James Hall (l) and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras

Work to move the steel reinforcements from the façade at 35 Weybosset Street and reopen the sidewalk are expected to begin any day now and be completed in January of 2012. With the steel moved to the back, the city will be able to re-open the sidewalk to pedestrians and finish re-paving Weybosset Street through to Turks Head.

In addition to moving the steel, re-opening the sidewalk, and fixing the street, Pezzuco Construction will restore the masonry and weatherize the façade.

The work is being funded in part by the Providence Revolving Fund. The Fund is providing a $100,000 10-year loan. The loan will become a grant if the façade is incorporated into a new building. O’Connor Capital Partners, the owners of the façade and the 110 Westminster Street lot, which will become “interim surface parking” is providing $300,000.

O’Connor Partner Brian Fallon stated: “O’Connor is pleased to have the support of the preservation community and to be part of a solution that will bring back a pedestrian friendly environment surrounding the property. As a Providence resident I personally understand and appreciate the unique character of the historical buildings. Moving the bracing and restoring the masonry on the façade, along with the interim plan for surface parking, takes us one step closer to ultimate preservation of the site, while improving conditions for pedestrian and merchant access today.”

Clarke Schoettle, executive director of Providence Revolving Fund also noted some other work being funded in part by the fund in the area, according to a Press Release from the Mayor’s Office:

“At this time, the Revolving Fund is also financing the restoration of the old Custom House Tavern Building for offices and a restaurant and is assisting with the conversion of the old Providence Gas Building for residential and commercial use. With the combination of public and private investment, we are seeing the regeneration of Weybosset Street. It’s a great thing.”

Schoettle also mentioned the Fund’s contributions to the restoration of the former Ritz Camera on Orange Street into the newly opened Congress Tavern, and some momentum on getting the Arcade reused.

While the rendering with the pocket park was mostly a marketing piece by PPS and others to get the façade saved, there will be zoning’s minimum landscaping on the site, and a pedestrian pathway will be established between Weybosset and Westminster, a connection which has been severed since the closing of the Arcade. PPS also made a rendering of the site without the façade which is terrifying. I will update this post with that image when I get a copy of it. Added below:

35 Weybosset Street with the façade gone

35 Weybosset with the façade gone and surface parking. Image © 2010 Chad Gowey. All rights Reserved.

While the heavy lifting of getting the façade secured and the sidewalk re-open is complete, we can continue to work with O’Connor to make the best of a bad situation, namely, a surface lot in the heart of the Financial District. Temporary attractions on the surface lot and boosting the landscaping is small potatoes compared to the façade.

Providence Preservation Society Executive Director James Hall will be doing two walking tours this weekend focusing on the Financial District. The tours are Saturday and Sunday starting at 1:30pm at the Providence National Bank Façade. Please RSVP to Lauren Goldenberg, Development Coordinator at the PPS. 401-831-7440


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24 Responses to The good news is the façade will be saved

  1. Liam November 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I would rather see the facade get torn down and no surface parking allowed.

  2. Jef Nickerson November 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I’ve added the image of the parcel with out the façade to the post above.

  3. bhooley November 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Certainly not ideal but many other positive things happening around this currently: the new Congress Tavern, The Dorrance, The Old Providence Gas building, something going on at the Custom House Tavern?, momentum at The Arcade?

    A pedestrian walkway *could* be a good addition if done well.

  4. Andy November 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Can the PRF just take over ALL (re)development for downtown? Please.

  5. Chuck November 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    It is a beautiful classic facade and it deserves to be saved, so this is good news for now. Love the park rendering.

  6. Jon F November 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    The facade preservation is great.

    Obviously a surface lot is not ideal. However, I’d rather see it be a “temporary surface lot” than a park for one single reason… redevelopment opportunities in the future.

    A surface lot is fairly easy to redevelop. Most residents won’t miss a surface lot (particularly downtown), and there’s aren’t too many issues regarding the negative impacts of removing a surface parking lot (“lack of parking” is the most common concern and adding a parking deck or garage to the project alleviates that).

    While a park or plaza is nice in theory, there’s enough open space downtown. Even if you say it’s a “temporary park,” there will be outrage and fierce opposition if/when a developer decides they want to build on the site. It would certainly be cause for delay in the project (perhaps cancellation). I have a small issue with old rail beds being converted to bike paths for similar reasons (difficult to utilize them for rail again in the future).

    A surface lot is a much more palatable short term solution because nobody will miss it when demand for new construction increases. A park is less desirable because people will have a hard time letting it go when the time comes. I’m supportive of the current proposal.

  7. Bret Ancowitz November 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    > …when demand for new construction increases.
    >

    Me:

    That could take a looooooooong time.

    While my head says it’s probably better to save the facade, my heart agrees with Liam. It would be sooo nice, sooo refreshing to see ANY policy move against “temporary” parking downtown.

  8. Jen Coleslaw November 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    when was the last time a parking lot was redeveloped?

  9. Bret Ancowitz November 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Good question. Does anyone know?

  10. Jef Nickerson November 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Well, Brown is developing a portion of their parking lot at Ship and Richmond into a pocket park, and RISD built the Chace Center on a parking lot, but I would say those are the exceptions which prove the rule.

    I can’t think of a single example in the last decade of building being taken down for a project which then stalled then became a “temporary parking lot” then was developed into something other than a “temporary parking lot.”

  11. Peter Brassard November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Others go back to the 80s: Federal Building on Westminster, 38 Studios building, The soon to be Hasbro location on La Salle Square, and the J&W library (formerly WJAR). Most of those sites were temporary parking lots dating back to the late 50s. It would seem that the redevelopment of surface parking lots is a decades long process.

  12. Jen Coleslaw November 16, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    yes, i was wondering about that. Looks like there was parking (but was it temporary or just a never developed lot?) where the train station and station park is now, and i suspect there were corresponding parking lots that went along with the buildings where the mall is now. But, i think the question before the group is, have any buildings torn down for redevelopment, then turned into parking lots, ever turned back into buildings or development?

    It seems to me that this is a terrible way to encourage economic development, unless that office’s #1 constituent is parking lot managers.

    I would also like to know what kind of taxes are paid on those lots, and what kind of taxes are paid on the income, especially considering that the income fluxuates so wildly based on who is coming to town…

  13. RunawayJim November 17, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    I guarantee they are not paying full taxes on the income generated from the lots. It’s a cash-only business, which means there are no receipts and there is no tracking of how many cars are parked on a given day/night nor how much those cars were charged to park. I’m guessing that’s why so many developers want to just tear down buildings and put in a parking lot. It’s easy money and they don’t have to pay a whole lot in taxes.

  14. Jen Coleslaw November 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    just think of the awesome “occupy the parking lots” game that could occur if we just put a person at each parking lot to count the cars the next time Justin Beiber or someone is in town.

  15. James November 18, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Hey commenters! Come to my walking tour on either Saturday or Sunday, and we can have a good conversation about parking–who its for, whether or not there is enough, etc…

    Hope to see you there–the weather is going to be perfect

  16. Andrew November 18, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Jim, I would think that the desire to avoid property taxes is a greater motivator in the creation of surface lots than the ability to scrimp on income taxes. We saw this with the Outlet Garage…the savings on property taxes for a 100 spot lot is greater than difference in the revenue generated by a 400 spot garage.

    Besides, it seems like a lot of surface lots are managed by a company other than the developer…thus when the company managing the lot pays the developer for the use of the lot, a record is created, and taxes are paid.

  17. RunawayJim November 18, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    And do you think those who are managing the lots are keeping very careful track of how much money they are generating for tax purposes?

  18. Andrew I November 18, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Every waitress and taxi driver is under more tax evasion scrutiny than parking lot moguls – Providence’s homegrown 1%.

  19. Andrew November 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Jim, if the problem to solve is “how to keep property owners from tearing down buildings to create surface lots,” then assuming that the surface lot managers are engaging in tax evasion isn’t very helpful. The REAL tax evasion happens when the building is demolished.

  20. Liam Blank December 23, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    I personally think that The Arcade should be redeveloped into Providence’s own Quincy Market. The downstairs should have a ceiling over it, giving the second floor more floor space (room for indoor eating like at Quincy Market). This would go really well with the new plans that have been made for the neighboring facade lot which will be turned into a pedestrian patio/outdoor area -perhaps a good place to have outdoor dining/entertainment. This could truly bring a lot of life back to Westminster Street and the Downcity area. Thoughts?

  21. David Cass December 23, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Liam, I do like the idea of transforming the Arcade into an open marketplace. I also think that it would be cool if it served as a business incubator/marketplace for local entrepreneurs. I know so many talented Providence people with great ideas but who lack the funds to get things started. The Arcade could be a space to get started on the cheap, be around other entrepreneurs, and maybe even get business coaching to ensure success.

  22. Liam Blank December 23, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    That sounds like an excellent idea, David. It would be much needed in that part of the city, especially with its proximity to the Jewelry District which will soon need businesses and residences to occupy the now vacant I-195 land.

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