Greater City Providence

Cornish Associates purchases The Providence Journal Building with Boston partner

75 Fountain Street – Image from Google Streetview

In a press release out today, Cornish Associates announces that they’ve purchased The Providence Journal Building and two neighboring parking lots with their partner, Norblom Company of Boston.

Nordblom Company and Cornish Associates Purchase The Providence Journal Building

Nordblom Company and Cornish Associates are pleased to announce their joint purchase of the historic Providence Journal Building located at 75 Fountain Street in the heart of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. This purchase also includes two adjoining parking lots at 78 Fountain Street and 1 Eddy Street. The Seller was A.H. Belo, who had owned these three properties and the newspaper until its sale in late 2014. The CBRE team, lead by Senior Vice President/Partner Alden Anderson, oversaw the transaction.

The building affords exceptional space in a terrific city location. Directly across the street from the Convention Center and Omni Providence Hotel, it also overlooks Kennedy Plaza, generally considered the heart of the city and the state’s transportation hub. Other notable neighbors include the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the 1 million square foot Providence Place Mall. The location also benefits from proximity to the flourishing retail stores and restaurants throughout downcity.

Cornish and Nordblom plan to commence immediately with improvements to the building. Their plan includes modernizing and revitalizing this iconic property while offering leases to a broad cross section of tenants ranging from full-floor users to 2-5,000 square foot occupants. With the building’s large windows and tall, bright spaces, it will provide exceptional new offices at very competitive rents in the marketplace. This is the first time, since its construction, that significant space has been available in this property and it offers an extraordinary opportunity for a wide range of prospective tenants. When renovations are complete at the close of 2015, the building will feature 160,000 square feet of renovated office space as well as over 10,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space facing the newly re-designed Emmet Square.

Arnold B. Chace, President of Cornish Associates comments, “we are delighted with this exciting new project in the heart of Providence and are pleased to be partnering in these acquisitions with Boston-based Nordblom Company who share a similar vision and considerable experience in the nearby Boston-area markets. Bringing additional office tenants into the building and activating the street-level spaces at Emmet Square will inject renewed vitality into the neighborhood around the Convention Center. The additional tenants and foot-traffic will help support the burgeoning restaurant and retail environment in downcity.”

“Providence is a vibrant city which is recovering nicely from the real estate doldrums, “observed Og Hunnewell, EVP/Vice President of Nordblom Company. “This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire and reposition several prime properties into a vibrant mixed-use project in the heart of the city. Renovation and redevelopment of these properties will compliment the work Cornish has done revitalizing properties in downtown Providence over the last decade. The timing could not be better for us to bring this property to market with dynamic new leadership at both the city and state levels and the economy improving.”

The renovation of the building is being done by a team comprised of Site Specific of Providence, RI as the general contractor and Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc. (SGA) of Boston, MA as the architect. Notable projects by Site Specific include the Biltmore Garage retail renovation in Providence, RI, various renovation projects at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, and renovation of the Innovation Lab at Harvard University. Notable projects by SGA include the GTECH Headquarters in Providence, RI, the soon to be built graduate student housing building at the South Street Landing project in Providence, RI, as well as interior renovations of the LogMeIn Headquarters in Boston, MA.

The Providence Journal Building was constructed in 1934 by architect, Albert Kahn. Kahn, known as the architect of Detroit, was first to develop a type of fire resistant construction that would enhance factories. Detroit benefits form a long list of architecturally significant commercial and residential developments done by Kahn. In Providence, his design for the Providence Journal allowed the growing newspaper to expand from its inadequate offices on Westminster Street to the new facility on Fountain Street. Built in the Georgian-Revival style in post-Depression America, the Fountain Street structure was originally three stories with the fourth floor being added in 1948. In 1957, the garage at Emmet Square was added to help facilitate the delivery of newspapers by truck. 

About Nordblom Company

Nordblom Company is a real estate enterprise with a 90-year history of investing, managing, and developing properties throughout the New England region and select markets across the country. The company currently owns office, commercial, and multi-family properties in the New England and Carolina markets and is committed to creating dynamic work and living environments that further the quality of life for the people who occupy its properties. Headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts with offices in Boston, Brookline, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Nordblom Company has $1.2 billion in assets under management.

About Cornish Associates

Cornish Associates is an innovative real estate development company committed to the principles of New Urbanism and to the overarching mission of creating diverse, walkable, and sustainable places. The company provides planning, design, development, and property management services as owner/developer and consultant on a broad variety of mixed-use real estate ventures. Cornish owns and manages 13 properties in downcity Providence with 197 apartments and 35 small businesses. Cornish also owns and manages Mashpee Commons, a mixed-use commercial and residential development on Cape Cod. Cornish Associates is headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.

[alert type=”warning”]Full disclosure: I work for Cornish Associates.[/alert]

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.


  • It sure would be nice if the portion on Mathewson Street that was taken by the Journal for an additional loading lock and a dozen parking spaces were returned to the city to realign Mathewson on both sides of Fountain Street.

  • I wonder if folks think having Fountain St become two-way is a good idea, apparently the Journal owners hadn’t thought so.

  • Apartments, apartments, apartments. Any parcel within walking distance of the train station and downtown amenities should be teeming with them.

  • So … I know this is a tricky subject for you, Jef. But the Emmet Square side of the building, that’s going to be interesting to watch here.

    I confess, I’ve always had crazy daydreams about that side of the ProJo (with its hideous 70’s façade and horrible street interaction) being ripped away, something tall, curved, and beautiful to be built in its place. Preferably tall enough that it could impede views of the Omni from several different angles!!

  • I agree with Boyd. This should be apartments. There is so much empty office space in Providence, it’s pretty ridiculous. The tonality of the press release “This is the first time, since its construction, that significant space has been available in this property and it offers an extraordinary opportunity for a wide range of prospective tenants.” HAHA, I had to laugh. Are they implying that there had always been demand to rent the ProJo building, kind of comical, since this used to be across the street from the Sportsman Inn brothel… err gentleman’s club, I’m not sure the demand was there at all.

    Either way, the location of this building could make great apartments. A walk in the park, proximity to KP and the train, RICC/Dunk, hotels (Omni/Biltmore/Residence), etc. I’d love to see a connection from this building to the RICC parking garage if that is the garage they will have a parking agreement with. I’ve always been a huge fan of skybridges and skywalks, especially in cities that don’t have the best weather most of the year. It’d be great to be able to get in on a train at Providence Station, and be able to walk all the way to the convention center and Dunk without having to deal with the weather. Skybridges could connect individual residential buildings to this network quite easily. It’s would be a nice perk that you can walk via SkyBridge to the CVS in the mall without having to put on a coat/gloves/hat/etc in the dead of winter. I think that the Broadway Gate project (which I am assuming is DOA) also incorporated a skybridge between buildings.

    Apartments in a non-managed/non-amenities building with such a close proximity to Burnside Park is not something we’ve seen a lot of. I bet there is a lot of demand for it. Personally, I’d be interested. Maybe even a roof top terrace overlooking the park for good measure.

  • I think one of the perks of a reworking like this is the potential to increase foot traffic in the relative dead-zone between the mall and the rest of downtown. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mall, but there isn’t much linking the mall’s shopping and food with the shopping and food on Washington and Westminster. Filling in the gap, so to speak, with some attractive retail would hopefully get the process started to blend the entire downtown district into one big foot traffic paradise.

    And regarding apartments, I would be all for them, but my understanding is that housing is the primary focus of the (admittedly purely hypothetical at this point) reworking of the massive Fountain St. surface parking lot that was also a part of this ProJo deal.

  • I’d love a tall beautiful tower in its place too but cmon this is RI, we need a dark blue moon for that to happen, but always good to see a building filling up.

  • Oh I know that. Just a daydream. Great spot for a hotel, though.

    But hey, I’ll take this. Cornish is a good developer, and progress is progress. Think of all the terrific projects that are slated to happen in the next few years. Give it a decade, with more infill and foot traffic downtown, and maybe someone starts to tinker with ideas for this site. It really is a gem of a site.

  • So the Fountain Street parking lot that reaches to Washington St. is going to be developed into a residential building (with street retail?)? This open space really hurts the image of Washington Street, it will be nice to get 2/3 new retail storefronts so that the street has more walkability. I’m not even so much concerned with Fountain Street, for me its more about Washington if they don’t put apartments in the ProJo building.

    The Fountain Street parking lot is huge, they have the ability to put in a residential building with parking underneath that has a very large footprint, they are also anchoring a base population of people to Washington Street, which during off-days can be like a ghost town (as much of Providence can be when school isn’t in session). It will be nice just to see more lights on. Seeing what Cornish did with the Biltmore Garage retail storefronts, there is not doubt that they would have retail spaces at street level, I hope they include street seating and Nana Walls, as well, similar to the Biltmore Garage.

    Are there any articles indicating how many units will be in this new building? I hope it’s on the magnitude of something that will contribute meaningfully to street traffic. So I guess this is the first residential project that is being built on the proposed streetcar line… maybe it’s a harbinger of things to come?

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