City Council Public Hearing on proposed zoning change for Hope Point Tower – July 18, 2018

In Buildings by Greater City Providence15 Comments

Rendering of proposed Hope Point Tower

Public Hearing Set for Hope Point Tower
WHAT: City Council’s Committee on Ordinances will hold a public hearing on text change and change in zoning map for the property located on Assessor’s Plat 20, Lot 397 (250 Dyer Street). The proposed development is commonly referred to as the “Fane Tower” or “Hope Point Tower.”

WHO: Committee on Ordinances: Senior Deputy Majority Leader Terrence Hassett, Chairman; Councilman Bryan Principe, Vice-Chairman; Councilwoman Carmen Castillo; Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris; Majority Whip Jo-Ann Ryan
Petitioner: William R. Landry, Blish & Cavanagh, LLP

WHERE: City Council Chamber (Third Floor), Providence City Hall, 25 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI 02903

WHEN: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 beginning at 5:30 PM (Public Comment Sign-Up will begin on or around 5:00 PM)

Providence City Council’s Committee on Ordinances will hold a public hearing regarding a text change and change in zoning map for the property located on Assessor’s Plat 20, Lot 397 (250 Dyer Street). The proposed development is commonly referred to as the “Fane Tower” or the “Hope Point Tower.”

If any person wishes to make public comment they are asked to sign in prior to the 5:30 PM meeting start time. The chambers will open on or around 5:00 PM and sign ups will begin at the same time.

Constituents who are unable to attend the public hearing may provide written testimony by mail or email to Lori L. Hagen, City Clerk: lhagen@providenceri.gov or City Clerk, 25 Dorrance Street, Room 311, Providence, RI 02903. (Please note, if you submit written testimony you are not required to appear or read your testimony at the public hearing.)

Offices and City Council Chambers are accessible to individuals with disabilities. If you are in need of interpreter services for the hearing impaired, please contact the Office of Neighborhood Services at 421-7768 not less than 48 hours in advance of the hearing date.

View the petition

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Comments

  1. Real skyline changing development is what Providence needs. We have to build vertically. This project sends a message that Providence is finally open for modern development. It will also partially solve the housing crisis downtown by adding more residential (for sale) units, and reallocating housing supply in other parts of the city to those who can not afford or do not wish to live downtown.

    I am excited at the prospects that downtown will come closer to being a sustainable community by adding more full-time residents. Hopefully this is the beginning of a pivot towards higher density development in Rhode Island.

    I’d vote yes, but then again, I would have approved all 3 of his towers and the 1,000+ apartments and condos that came with them.

  2. I compare this tower to the Prudential center in Boston. Outside the typical downtown of Boston, it’s now a major landmark and sparked more development in Boston. Build it!

  3. I am completely for the building of this tower and subsequent development as a result. There is a major housing crisis in Providence, and this can set the precedent that our community is open for change.

    Those in clear opposition who view this as an impediment need to remove the blinders. We have a substantial opportunity here that shouldn’t be squandered. Build it, along with a supermarket, other retail and additional housing. If we don’t, someone else will..

  4. Spent yesterday in the seaport in Boston. Boston would build this in a heartbeat. They are open to modern development and they make it easy to get things done, we need emulate what they are doing because it is clearly working. Between 2008 and 2018, the seaport went from nothing to something really special. It starts and ends with condo and apartment towers. We MUST build this.

    It is very concerning that residents here would turn away a $300mm project so easily. The prime boom years of a bull market don’t come along very frequently (2005/6 was the last period), but when they do most (relevant) cities see their skylines change in some form or another. Providence’s skyline will change, and that is not a bad thing. Anti-change Rhode Islanders need to embrace that change and allow the city to take advantage of the strength of the economy right now.

    I totally agree with the mention by John of a housing crisis. There are practically no condos for sale downtown right now. Why does Providence make it so difficult to live in downtown? It does not have to be this way! The city should have an actual plan to facilitate the addition of residential owner occupied units to downtown. Say, a 15 year plan to add 500 units per year in the downtown area, at minimum. Another 15-20,000 downtown residents would support other development like retail and a large format supermarket. The original three tower Fane plan was for 1,000 condos — this project alone would have represented a significant amount of new downtown residents in an area of the city that has none.

  5. KCB makes a great point, I have always compared the Jewelry District to Boston’s Seaport. Similar post-industrial history with a recent revival. Boston is kicking ass and taking names, while Providence is learning to walk for the first time. Providence has had recent development, but this is something that will be monumental for the city and the region.

  6. Real cities are constantly changing. This is Providence’s opportunity to embrace the 21st century in style. Will Providence have the cojones? Time will tell…

  7. Well, there you have it. Providence has no cojones. The message to the development community is: we don’t want your money if you’re not from here. Great job Providence!

  8. I was there last night, opposition sounded as they usually do, no no no no. Some decent points were made but in the end, this is real money for this city that can support other development for years as well as hundreds and hundreds of jobs. People said that there’s a plan in place, ordered responded that plans change. If you’re in the design planning or engineering field , you know that plans do change and adapt. This is not your everyday project. People said why make and zoning exception for one project? Because it’s an exceptionally opportunity. Build it.

  9. Plans change, rules are different. Zoning is a set of rules and a carefully crafted set at that. You don’t go changing rules on a whim. This building does not fit on the parcel available for it, and exceeds the rules set forth for that parcel. The developer should either design a new building that fits on the parcel and conforms with the rules, or find another parcel that can fit his building and has rules that allow for it.

    The developer does not own this parcel, there are other parcels available he can buy to build a similar building.

    I would argue that Providence has shown that it indeed does have cojones. Rather than rolling over to the demands of a developer the City is demanding it’s rules be followed and is also questioning the ability of the developer to pull off what he is proposing to do.

    Yes, this building (at the right location) is an exceptional opportunity, but it is also an exceptional risk. The developer is asking for a lot of incentives from the City and State and the scale of the building he’s proposing is magnitudes beyond what Providence has ever done.

    People seem to think for some reason this will trigger some sort of building boom, there’s no guarantee that if you build it, they will come. In fact if this building fails to fill up with tenants, it could put a damper on further development in Providence for years.

    I’m surprised no one has noticed we’re actually in the midst of a building boom. It is a boom in keeping with the scale of Providence and it is incremental. If the projects being built now prove successful, more of the same will follow. Putting scores or hundreds of residents in moderately scaled developments across the city allow us (the City and developers) to gauge and confirm demand, and then move forward with more of what is working and abandon what is not. Throwing up one giant building for 1,000 people and hoping it works is a big risk.

    I think the fact that we have a handful of developers actively building moderately scaled buildings right now and only one proposing a 600′ tower says something.

  10. Well, nobody is building any for sale condominium high rises at all. They are doing apartment new constructions or office to residential apartment conversions, all for rent. That’s what makes this project so important. There is nothing to house skilled middle class workers that refuse to rent. A demographic that will grow every year since the goal of the state is to attract higher paying jobs.

    I think the last statement saying that there is only one developer proposing a 600′ foot tower so that says something may be the wrong way to look at it. In the hunt for yield, there will always be more market participants interested in perpetual rental income generating projects than those interested in financing, constructing, and selling out a new construction residential high rise. Further, more small fish have limited amounts of capital and borrowing capacity than big fish who have the funds and connections to do these larger projects. News flash, there aren’t many big fish that currently live in Rhode Island.

    I don’t know how you can argue that Providence has cojones when they just squandered $250-300 million dollars in private, out of state investment. This defeatist, “we can win by losing” mentality is what has plagued us for far too long.

    Seeing short sighted “affordable housing” advocates make the poor argument that we shouldn’t build THIS because we can’t have THAT, was just nauseating. My fiance and I have personally been looking to purchase something on the West End for 18 months and the prices are just out of control. My conclusion is that wealthier people have been displaced by the lack of middle class housing and have been looking at lower price point two family homes to completely renovate — thus driving up the prices. Just driving around and seeing the amount of contractors working in the West End would suggest this. Adding these units to downtown would be a great thing for the housing crisis because it would free up cheaper inventory for families that need prices to be affordable.

    Lastly, I respect the argument that why go through all the work to create a master plan with set policies, only to throw them out the window when it comes time to enforce them. However, the State House and federal government have already approved. Providence has a chance to take its destiny in its own hands and its choosing to turn away a sizeable investment in our future. If not now, when? Last night’s message to other out of state developers was “never”. The real winners last night were Hartford, Worcester, and Boston.

    1,000 new residents downtown puts us on the path to a sustainable downtown, let’s not be blinded by the anti-change rhetoric from opponents that have their own motives.

  11. This building won’t be condos for middle-class workers/families, it will be out of their reach. I’ve yet to see any market studies that prove the demand for this. Employment downtown is tending to expand among young workers and younger people tend to want to rent as a trend currently. And as millennials age, they are following the pattern of Gen X and Boomers before them and moving to suburbs with yards and good schools for their kids, that’s when they start buying.

    Again, if there is so much demand, why is no one else proposing any condos? TPG could throw up a big tower on the Old Public Safety Complex lot tomorrow, but thus far, that lot still proves to be more valuable to them as surface parking.

  12. Is there an economic study available which was done by Fane? Hard to believe he would invest that much on a project without knowing of the demand.

  13. Jef, thanks for the responses, this is a great discussion.

    I think its impossible at this point to ascertain that young employees in Providence want to rent and not own. As working adults, they have never had the opportunity to purchase a home in many cases. The inventory has been low for a very long time, and there are practically zero condos for sale downtown. I personally want to own downtown and have been unable to purchase anything because of the inventory problem, I know at least three other couples that are in the same situation.

    I’d be really interested to know where the data is coming from that says that millennials want to move to the suburbs. Literally everything I have read is to the contrary. Millennials are not buying pre-build subdivisions at the clip of the last generation, and they won’t when they have children. A 60 minute commute to live in a 4,000SF colonial is not something most millennials will ever do, or want to do. But either way, I would like to see the data/white paper that is forecasting that.

    As to why developers aren’t focusing on condo towers… it’s a very good question. Jef, I think in a previous post you mentioned that the tax stabilization program does not include condos. I just assumed that when choosing between developing a 1.) apartment tower with tax breaks or 2.) for sale condo tower with no tax breaks, that the tax breaks made the first choice have a much better ROI. I am not a developer, so I don’t know that’s the case.

    I would go out on a limb and say that I don’t believe that anyone is getting a better return on surface parking than a condo project, though.

    I think that people would be really surprised how quickly the Fane Tower sold/filled in. There are a lot of people waiting for an opportunity to get in on a pre-build condo tower in a city like Providence.

  14. Hi Jeff: Providence needs to attract new blood from outside Rhode Island. This area has been forgotten for a very long time and absolutely none of the plans created by the city’s Planning Departmwnt have worked. It is crazy for Providence to think that it can get to the level of truly great cities without doing something as visionary and paradigm-changing as the Fane project. Providence does not need more of the same-old projects that we get from the local development community. We need to set free our potential and this is the right location, scale and function. In planning and development, when plans and regulations don’t do what is needed, they are scratched and the planning process starts all over again. The council has the legal authority to amend and interpret the zoning ordinance and the comprehensive plan as they please. These are not static documents. Build the tower and show the world that Providence does have cojones and just stop it with the lame excuses. – Big Papi

  15. Sorry, but I feel this is yet another chapter in age old RI story of ‘we cant have nice things.’ Next chapter is the Pawsox… 🙁

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