Greater City Providence

Providence Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – February 12, 2018

[alert type=”muted” heading=”Downtown Design Review Committee Notice of Regular Meeting”]Monday, Febraury 12, 2018 – 4:45pm
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903[/alert]
drc-roundOpening Session
  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Special Meeting Minutes of January 22, 2018
Old Business

1. DRC Application No. 17.24: 276 and 290 Westminster Street (Wit and Lapham Buildings) – Proposal by Cornish Associates to conduct exterior alterations to the Wit and Lapham Buildings, as part of their conversion to mixed-use buildings. The project received conceptual approval at the June 12, 2017 DDRC Meeting.

2. DRC Application No. 17.25: 270 Westminster (Trayne Building) – Proposal by Cornish Associates to conduct exterior alterations to the Trayne Building, and to construct a new 4-story addition on the east elevation, as part of its conversion to a mixed-use building. The project received conceptual approval at the June 12, 2017 DDRC Meeting.

3. DRC Application No. 17.18: Garrahy Courthouse Parking Structure: Intersection of Richmond, Friendship & Clifford Streets – Proposal by the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority to construct a 1,250-car open parking structure with ground floor commercial, to be located on a vacant site at the intersection of Richmond, Friendship and Clifford Streets. The project site is currently used for surface parking. The project received conceptual approval at the May 8, 2017 DDRC Meeting.

[alert type=”info”] GCPVD: Rendering of the Proposed Garrahy Courthouse Parking Garage[/alert]
New Business

4. DRC Application No. 18.03: 55 Dorrance Street (Woolworth Building) – Proposal by BankNewport to create a new entrance into the ground floor tenant space on the Westminster Street elevation of the building, and to install exterior signage.

5. DRC Application No. 18.04: 170 Westminster Street (Union Trust Company Building) – Proposal by Providence Capital III, LLC to construct a new penthouse on the roof of the building.

Other Business – Pre-Application Review

6. 131 Canal Street – Proposal to construct a new 11-story mixed-use building on the site, which is currently used for surface parking. This item is for discussion only. No action will be taken by the DRC at this meeting.

[alert type=”info”] GCPVD: 15-story ‘Edge College Hill Two’ proposed for Canal Street site[/alert]

7. RIPTA Downtown Transit Connector (DTC) Shelter Design – Proposal by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to install ten (10) new bus shelters as part of the DTC project.

[alert type=”muted”]Agenda [/alert] [alert type=”warning”]Full Disclosure: I work for Cornish Associates and will be part of the team presenting items 1 and 2.[/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.


  • Build it, and they will come! Looking forward to seeing all of the new development coming to fruition. I plan on moving downtown in the next 2 years..

  • Which side is the east elevation for 270 Westminster? Is it behind it the building or is it on the gravel park?

  • I am hopeful that there are some developers that are looking to build condos, not just apartments. There is clearly a shortage of for sale condos on the market in Providence right now, and there are only like 3 for sale downtown on Zillow. Empty nesters are going to want to downsize but still own, right now they don’t have many options.

    These would more likely be luxury condos with prices above $400,000.

    I’ve been told that there is a general lack of marketing by our local government when it comes to out of state developers. Although, it is hard to know if that is actually true. It is surely believable, no doubt.

  • The addition to 270 Westminster is into the park, about to where the bocci court is now. A reconfigured park will be created in the remaining space.

  • One of the reasons there are less condos is rules regarding historic tax credits. They can only be used for rental units. Though supply is low, it also seems that demand also remains low for condos in the downtown.

  • Anybody go to the meeting last night? Curious if the renderings are similar to the previous ones but no with 4 few floors.

  • Pete: PBN has a story:

    “Parking is not required under city zoning for downtown development. But committee members at the Downtown Design Review Committee meeting questioned why the developer didn’t include it. One member said the restaurants in the area would certainly have an impact because of the loss of the surface parking, and the absence of public parking associated with the project.”

    As usual, Providence is its own worst enemy. *eye roll*

  • I went. Appearance is similar to before on the lower floors at the street and the overall massing is about the same, but yes, with four fewer floors on top. The upper portion of the building was shown with a brick-ish material and a regularized pattern of windows, no more scattershot windows all over the place.
    Since it wasn’t an actual public meeting, the public comment period was limited. The opposition was the same as before, sadly focused mostly on the elimination of the parking lot. I am generally in favor of the development, so I gave a brief comment on the positives of the complete lack of parking and the importance of making the best of the ‘service lane’ that will separate the new building from the existing Steeple Street buildings so that it isn’t a nasty trash alley.

  • Thanks, JCK, Brendan, and Eric for your responses to me!

    When I went to the original meeting in January – I thought about it after and thought it was too tall for the area and thought 2-3 less stories would be better. I am usually “the taller the better” but I guess not in this case! 🙂

    Now that I see it with 4 less stories, I think it is much more in-keeping with the area. Sure, some minor design modifications could be made but overall I say let’s build it!!

    The parking argument is frustrating. I want density in the city NOT a parking lot with trash dumpsters. The naysayers love to talk about how the new building would look coming down from Thomas St, it blocks the historical building, it’s near Benefit St. It is a million times better than looking at a lot with cars and dumpsters. People need to realize that we are in a city – so you can’t drive right up to the door of the place you want to go to, you need to park a block or so away. I have been to Fat Belly’s and New Rivers on several occasions and I never parked in the lot and always found nearby parking.

    I think this will get approved now since it doesn’t have to use the development rights.

  • Yes, the “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PARKING!?!” argument really bugs me.. If we have several hundred people living where there used to be a parking lot, we won’t need Bruce and Edna from East Greenwich to pilot their land yacht into the city to fill tables at our many great restaurants.

  • Man, here we are debating 4 additional stories, when the neighboring building is already that high and the building across the canal (Citizens Bank) is similar height, as well. Further, as mentioned above, the lot is empty, so its not replacing anything with meaningful value. It’s just so senseless of an argument. I would prefer more density over shorter buildings, it adds more value to the city as a whole. This is (practically) a downtown capital city area , we are supposed to have buildings greater than 11 stories.

    I suppose that these lame height arguments are going to probably talk down the Hope Point project to a height shorter than the Superman building. In typical RI fashion, we will go from a proposal for 3 skyscrapers to 1 average high rise. Without these downtown projects, we are a declining population city. Adding residents to downtown is literally what will save us from operational bankruptcy. Yet we take the stance that development aspirations should always be “toned down” from the first proposal, even if no real flaws are identified. As home of RISD, we should be leading the nation in edgy, modern design; not defaulting to boxy brick mid-rises.

    Build high rises! Add density! Allow Providence to become a self supporting city. Or Worcester becomes the #2 city in New England. Compete or die.

Providence, RI
5:21 am8:03 pm EDT
Feels like: 55°F
Wind: 15mph NNE
Humidity: 83%
Pressure: 30"Hg
UV index: 1
72°F / 52°F
79°F / 57°F
84°F / 61°F