Greater City Providence

Providence Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – April 8, 2019

[alert type=”muted” heading=”Downtown Design Review Committee Notice of Regular Meeting”]Monday, April 8, 2019 – 4:45pm
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

Agenda [/alert]

drc-roundOpening Session
  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Meeting Minutes of March 11, 2019
New Business

1. DRC Application No. 19.05: 10 Orms StreetPublic Hearing – The subject of the hearing will be an application by First Circle Realty, LLC, requesting a waiver from Zoning Ordinance Section 1604.G, Illumination Standards, which prohibits internally illuminated face-lit signs in the D-1 Zone. The applicant is seeking to install three (3) new internally illuminated face-lit wall signs on the building located at 10 Orms Street, Providence, RI.

Rendering of proposed Hope Point Tower with the Wexford project at left.

2. DRC Application No. 19.07: 250 Dyer Street (Portion of I-195 Redevelopment District Parcel 42) – Proposal by Fane Tower, LLC to construct a new 46-story building, consisting of residential units, structured parking, and ground floor retail. The applicant will be seeking waivers from Providence Zoning Ordinance Sections 606. A.2, Building height and massing, 606.D.1, Building facades built within a build-to-zone, 606.D.2, Building facade transition line, and 606.E.3, Upper story facade transparency. The applicant will be seeking a waiver from these regulations, per Zoning Ordnance Section 1601.D. The DDRC will conceptually review the project and make a recommendation to the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission regarding the building design and waivers.


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  • I hate this rendering. It is in isolation and makes it look like it is in an open field. This feeds the opposition’s cry of “too tall, too big, too much, too out of place”.

    The proposal would be better served if it was placed into the current and proposed nearby Innovation District landscape with the Financial District towers visible…all to actual scale.

  • Agreed, in reality this tower will be very close to the other high rises in the financial district, the eye sores are the undeveloped parking lots in between, which will develop and fill in one day.

  • That’s the frustrating component regarding the “outrage”. Although there is building activity in the district, the number of empty, dirty lots is appalling. In any other area across the country, most of these lots would have already been built on and occupied. It’s time to accept that change is positive and can be a catalyst to additional growth to new and existing businesses. “Hope” it gets built!

  • You are all right about that rendering, its terrible. It would be easy to think that whoever made that Sketchup model of the Wexford building had never even seen a picture of it. The building is essentially done and that model looks absolutely nothing like it. So who knows how accurate the height and massing of anything in that image is, Hope Point Tower included. One hopes that it is as innocent as carelessness and nothing else.

  • Excuse me people…why not you stop complain! about this tower? for what? what too big and what too tall?? Well too bad it not your decision…this tower is perfect shape tower with white wavy I love it. It nothing wrong!! I mean you can’t control architect for tallest tower like think about it the year 2030 2040 in the future providence will tallest again never know. It will tall again never know like NYC, Boston, any cities. So why people always love to think little skyscraper? You seem bored!! I was born Providence and I grew up and u know Industrial National Bank building and One Financial Plaza not that tall so it make me suck and bored and I went NYC, Boston too tall tower I was excited than little tower. So Providence should have it and something new for 21st century I honest Jason fane and architect is right decision that next by river with park air flesh place. I see many post people complain so stupid reason! Come one I honest don’t like bored little skyscraper!!! Hoppe Point Tower will be 530 foot and 46 storey tower thank you fane!! People complain like loser how awful bored.

  • Fanes project is designed for the now and for the future, naysayers forget this tower will be around much longer then they will be. Vernon is right, the sky is the limit, even for the Rennsaiance City.

  • Just left the meeting. I was impressed with the new renderings presented of the podium facade. The naysayers were acting like children, and at one time literally laughing out loud as the architect was still speaking. Incredibly immature and embarrassing. Most comments were about the building not fitting in with the city but most really had no substance to their arguments. One man from Gilbane construction actually brought up some very good points about existing architecture in the city and how modern architecture does work here. I wasn’t surprised at the crowds reactions since most were 65+ and from the East Side. Some have legitimate beefs but most are just there to complain. We’ll see what happens next, hopefully this project moves forward.

  • Sounds like, once again, these small town thinkers exposed their silly arguments – “too big, too much, too tall”, completely ignoring that fact that the site is 1/3 of a mile/5 blocks from the Textron tower, and in DOWNTOWN.

    As Paolino said, they need to move to a suburb.

    Thankfully, the DDRC has no veto authority- it simply advises the 195 District Commission.

  • Gio, agreed, the new renderings blend in well with Wexford. Also, many of the east side elitists have a tendency to complain about anything that may deviate from their perfect little circle. Sorry, it’s a pervasive mindset that needs to be discarded in favor of more progressive thinking.

    I’m going out on a limb and betting that this WILL be built.. Steve, correct, the tower would in essence be part of downtown.. I mean, would the tower detract from the many vacant lots that have existed for over a decade now?? We know how aesthetically pleasing they are and how much those lots are contributing to the vitality of the city and surrounding businesses.. Good grief!

  • I live in Wayland Square. You would think this was a toxic waste tower being proposed on Wayland Avenue!

    Sick of the “boo birds” and provincial types. Move to a little suburb!

    So glad the City Council and the I-195 Commission, with strong support from the Senate President, are moving this forward…

    May I suggest you all go to the city site, look up the DDRC, and send a letter (email) of strong them.

  • If I owned an expensive home on the East Side, I would be all for skyscrapers being built downtown. The proximity of historic East Side homes to an even denser, busier, more populated capital city only adds value those homes. The East Side will always be an enclave.

    This has to do with power. The elitists are just protecting their own by making it difficult for out of state interests to exploit an opportunity. For too long, we have operated at the snail speed and horrendous efficiency of the “we know better” socio-political class that spends their time between Smith Hill and Blackstone Boulevard. It is time that we allow the best idea to win. This is a very difficult concept in Rhode Island, where 80 years of one party rule has perverted process, policy, and powerful people.

  • I believe that we should all have access throughout the city including events that the elite want to keep people that don’t fit into their income status. Just because our income has been cramped by retirement does mean we should still not have the access that we did have before retirement.

  • I believe that we should all have access throughout the city including events that the elite want to keep people that don’t fit into their income status. Just because our income has been cramped by retirement does mean we should still not have the access that we did have before retirement. This is not a duplicate comment. It is the first time that I have ever made comment on RIPTAS changes.

  • Let them build what they want, but with no public subsidy or financial support. If Providence is “major” enough for a luxury tower like this, let the market support it, not the taxpayers.

    The city/state helping to fund a project like this to “put Providence on the map” is the equivalent of me buying a yacht because I want to be wealthy.

  • Joel –

    That is simply not accurate.

    First, the state’s commerce folks subsidize many projects – large and small – as both an incentive to build and as tax assistance. This developer has not asked for a single penny more than what is normally provided.

    Second, it has absolutely nothing to do with an effort to “put Providence on the map”. Providence IS “on the map.” It is a state capital, renowned for its higher education, architecture, culinary arts, and entertainment. It is the core of New England’s second largest metro, is in the top 10% largest metro areas, is home to New England’s largest zoo, home to the 3rd largest unsupported marble dome in the world, and has the nation’s 11th busiest Amtrak station, to mention a few things.

    This is about a great investment in a new innovation district of downtown. That simple.

  • Thanks for the primer on subsidies, Steve. Really appreciate it!

    You have stated that “This developer has not asked for a single penny more than what is normally provided.” First of all, how could you possibly know what the developer has asked for?

    Secondly, let’s take your statement at face value and assume that the Hope Point Tower receives the same treatment as Wexford, which is valued at around $105 million. Wexford got a 20 year TSA from the city, $18.5 mil (~18% of value) from the 195 Commission, and $13.5 mil (~12% of value) from Rebuild RI.

    We have heard that Hope Point is a $300m project. Based on that number, if they get the same deal as Wexford, they are in line for another 20 year TSA from the city (paying full share of taxes in ~2043), $54m from the 195 Commission, and $36m from Rebuild RI.

    If all of that comes to pass (20 year TSA from the city and $90 mil from Commerce Corp), would you consider it a great investment? Put another way, what is the max amount of money the city/state could throw at this tower that you would still consider a good investment?

  • Joel –

    First of all, what the developer asked for is in public record. Better said, is that what the developer asked for was the same tax and subsidies formulas (not literally “penny”) as other TSA, etc. I assumed the reader didn’t take my “penny” as meaning the same monetary amount.

    As to what amount would be a good investment; the intangibles in any TSA or subsidies are at least as important as the straight money calculations.

    The commission is tasked with creating a full economic development positive in the district. The includes building density, increased population, residential, hotel, innovation enterprises, employment growth, among others. So, if the TSA/subsidies formula is consistent, this project is a good investment.

    They way the opponents talk, this is a toxic chemical plant being built in Wayland Square.

    The way I, and it’s proponents see it, this is a residential tower that contributes to the district’s momentum, investor interest in the other parcels, and the downtown’s overall growth.

    Well worth it.

  • I don’t know, Steve, $90 million is a terribly high price to pay for vaguely defined intangibles like “momentum” and “interest.” And as for “overall growth,” there are plenty of projects currently contributing to the overall growth of downtown that don’t require $90 million of taxpayer dollars, including five competing proposals for a single parcel. Why is this one so important?

  • Let me offer a perspective…

    First, the bridge over the river is a $21 million TOTALLY public project that drives ZERO economic growth.

    Second, the Garrahy Parking Garage is a $44 million plus TOTALLY public project that drives ZERO economic growth (it will serve the Wexford complex…with its own subsidies!).

    Third, the several Johnson and Wales structures are tax exempt and drive little.

    Fourth, the various new hotels and apartment buildings, virtually all of which have some subsidies/tax stabilization, would be very impressive for one of PVD’s urban suburbs (Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Newport, Fall River, New Bedford), but hardly will be or are attention getters for developers to say “Wow, look at that – we need to look at downtown PVD”. They are stubby, routine, normal unimpressive mid-rise major city structures.

    You are correct, citing “momentum “ and “interest” without supporting info is intangible. But I assure you they are not. This project is expected to be true game changer. It will certainly provide the commission a powerful selling point. That is why the commission and Commerce is so supportive.

    This project dwarfs any of the others individually or combined in any combination. It is a $300 million dollar investment!! It adds over 450 condos, it adds density, adds population, creates hundreds of construction jobs for years, adds spending and activity, and adds a major tower to the downtown skyline. NONE of the others do any of that; except add density.

    Do a “bang for the buck” comparison.

  • Hope point is the type of project that most people didn’t think Providence was capable of developing. That why this is so huge for this city.

  • You think “a new tower in Providence” is this super impressive, game-changing, “they finally like me!” thing, but it’s just not. There are plenty of small cities who built a big tower at some point of great optimism / confidence in the broken tools of “economic development.” Many of them just sit empty and stupid looking, and you can usually pinpoint the decade the tower went up because the now passé style sticks out like a sore thumb.

    And Gio, “Lets build because they don’t think we can” is one of the worst motivations to build, especially with public money.

    The selling point this project gives the 195 commission is “Providence is willing to give away a ton of money to build whatever you want, even if it’s not clear that there’s a market for it or if it will reduce the need to subsidize the future.”

  • $90 million for 450 condos comes out to $200,000 in public subsidy per dwelling unit. Instead of giving away a bunch of money so that wealthy people with all the options in the world choose this one option (fingers crossed!) and Fane makes a profit, Commerce could use that money to straight up build 450 units of market rate housing. It wouldn’t be in a skyscraper, because that is the most expensive construction type, but with a unit size of 1000 s.f. (comfortable 2-bed), $200,000 per unit comes out to $200/s.f. Totally reasonable! Or they could use that $90 million for 600 units of affordable housing at $150/s.f.! (Until recently, I think the target for affordable housing was something like $135/s.f., so $150/s.f. seems doable). This scenario adds density, adds population, creates hundreds of construction jobs for years, adds spending and activity… and possibly a less splashy marketing piece?

    I suppose we just have a different idea of how public money should be spent. I think public money should be spent on things that are necessary that the market cannot provide (like bridges, and yes, occasionally parking garages – although I’d be totally fine with less public spending on auto-oriented development!). Luxury housing is one thing that the market has figured out how to provide. Let it! Let them build what they want, but with no public subsidy.

  • Joel, you’re attitude has soiled my otherwise happy day. Anyway…

    Hope Point should be built for a number of reasons. Here are just a few…

    1. It is a private development, seeking fairly standard public financial accommodations.
    2. There is a massive housing shortage in the Providence metro area and this will provide the single largest increase in market rate (for sale) condos that the area has EVER seen.
    3. Downtown of the capital city is the only place in the entire state where it makes sense to build tall buildings. This parcel is close enough to downtown where other lots can be filled in later to make a contiguous high-rise area. At some point, skyscrapers will be built 0.2 miles from Turks Head, I’m sorry — that is just reality.
    4. It will end up being a $400-500 million dollar investment in the capital city’s downtown. At a replacement value of $500 million, in 15 years, that equates to $16,000,000 per year in annual property taxes at the non-owner occupied rate ($9,400,000 at the owner occupied rate). This would probably make this development the #1 single site property tax payer in the city. There is over $3,5 billion in real estate owned by the hospitals and universities (top 9) that don’t pay taxes (approximately $100 million annually that goes unpaid, under guise of ‘expempt’) — this increase in the tax base is ESSENTIAL.
    5. Adding 1,000 new residents to downtown makes it much more sustainable. In order to attract and retain private city services such as a supermarket, there has to be density downtown. Our culture of restaurants and retail demands that more people live downtown, otherwise we can not support the number of restaurants that we have per capita (highest in the state) since our downtown right now is probably only 8,000 residents. Realistically this needs to be 2-3x higher.
    6. Providence infrastructure and capacity was overbuilt because it was a rapidly growing city that many expected to be that way forever. Our population peaked in the early 20th century, 100 years later we should be handle 200,000 residents, a number below our high watermark.
    7. Tall buildings are almost never lauded by the establishment and local elites, but those people quickly become comfortable with them when they are shown a new, edgy development project enemy. In this environment of cheap money, that new enemy will be here before Hope Point is even complete.

  • Uh I couldn’t believe it!! I already know that I call news 10, news 12 or public library that say tower is design is approved BUT.. one thing that say city committee decided want to change low height and no white wavy tower is that true of false I mean is this going revised?! I was shock, angry so hurt bad like nightmare I can’t sleep!!! What is so Shame stupid decision!! why people are always complain this tower like want boring little building?? This is wrong idea..because like I say Providence should have tallest tower like Boston or NYC so city committee cannot decision forever lower height I mean like future 2040 so what is the problem with this tower?? I want 556 foot (Not need low height) with white wavy tower that is my favorite designed ever recent April 8th rendering Hope Point Tower I look zoning, white wavy design, parking podium is 100 percent so that is nothing wrong!! PLEASE I pray I don’t want revised this tower again…

  • Gio, before I read the article that that say May next meeting I see and now I check out again article my laptop I can’t find say in may so.. I call the news 10, 12, abc6 that say designed tower is approved and committee decided the designed is not approved and they want change lower height and design building look like and no when next meeting…so what is shame committee decision for?! because I knew people is stupid complain support this tower why committee agree people complain or why committee think building is harm? or not fit? I am very pissed. I mean I look this recently rendering is nothing harm, or not fix so this is fix for people who want to moved there and will add more people live this tower and didn’t matter what Providence zoning look like. I know the city council passed vote allow 600 foot and zoning so why committee is idiot decision? Providence should have tallest tower with white wavy I mean White wavy is nice shape. I hope don’t want no revised again. I want this rendering on April 8th just perfect. I ask my join group Facebook “Say Yes to Hope Point Tower” that say 195 commission and city council already passed and no revised. I was agreed with facebook group not news.

  • Kiteboarder, I share your interest in growing the Providence tax base, as well as your frustrations about how much of real estate in this city is tax exempt. I do have serious doubts, however, about solving that problem by creating one huge tax paying project (once they do start paying their fair share of taxes far far in the future). How much leverage will the Hope Point Tower have over the city once they achieve the status of “top tax payer”? You think the handouts will stop after the four they’re already in line for (5x the land value through zoning change, tax stabilization, Rebuild RI, and 195 Commish)? Rather than throw all the money at “one tax payer to rule them all,” why not spread the money out to build a bunch of medium-size projects, none of which will hold the keys to the kingdom when completed? Broaden the tax base, don’t just concentrate it.

  • it looks like a giant pair of legs, providence should not be known for the leg towers

  • Articles read that the next step is some sort of approval or review by the historic reservation society. Which, I’m unsure how that’s relevant. Either way, Fane was quoted saying construction will begin in about a year. Finally.

  • I really hope construction begins before one year lol… this entire process has been such an embarrassment. A circus, even. The protesters, the delays, the mayor’s crap. Yuck.

    This is 900 new downtown residents with a combined annual purchasing power of over $200MM annually. Providence reached its peak population in 1940. I’d say 900 people moving downtown is a pretty damn good thing.

    I wish we could build 20 of these things, side by each, and reclaim our spot in the top 100 largest US cities. Downtown has to be sustainable and to do that we need more PEOPLE.

  • When you think about the positives of this project, it blows my mind how some groups could be so against it. I have Boston residents telling me its embarrassing to see such opposition for such a large investment in Providence, that’s telling. The oppositions minds remain in a small (Rhode island like) box. They must open their minds to the future of this city, not the past. This project is HUGE for Providence and its going to be magnificent in person.

  • It is embarrassing, Gio.

    The Mayor, The various City agencies, the almost two dozen hearings, and the absolutely arrogant group led by Sharon Steele. They act like they own the city park and bridge, parcel 42, and the district.

    Further, they have no clue that the entire Innovation District is a district of Downtown, ignore the fact that the parcel is 3/10s of a mile of the Textron tower, and can be seen from the steps of City Hall downtown.

    Same old too big, too much, too tall. As Paolino said, if they want a small city, move to the suburbs!

  • Its like Rhode Islanders would rather have 2 story office buildings and parking garages. A beautiful tower on the waterfront full of people spending their money in a revived downtown is exactly what this city needs. I’m sure there were people against moving the rivers or building the mall. The towers across from the mall look great. Stop trying to make Providence a boring small city. We don’t need another 2 story commercial building.

  • Agree.

    Rhode Islanders…I don’t care what they think. I care what the people of Providence think.
    And the opposition is a tiny – perhaps 2% – of the residents.

    That lawsuit is an example of the “tyranny of the minority” we often see in this great City.

    Like Paolino and I have said, if you want to live in a sleepy little suburb of PVD, move to Seekonk or Portsmouth.

  • It’s about time this project has moved beyond the nonsensical obstacles and may actually come to fruition. Every other project approved in the district has been uninspiring and boring. Gee, look.. Another 6 story brick building being built.. Yawn… Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Fane and his team stay the course. This is a gigantic opportunity to build density and spawn a diversity of business opportunities.

  • Well said.

    All of us need to weigh in at every forum/meeting to support this project and reject the opposition and obstruction.

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