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Comment on the Old Public Safety Complex

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Workers removing decorative facade elements from the Old Public Safety Complex on July 12, 2007.

Dear Members of the Providence ZBR:

Greater City Providence writes today to vigorously oppose The Procaccianti Group’s application before you, requesting a use variance to turn this potentially salvageable historic building into a temporary parking lot. Putting aside a moment conflicting reports of how damaged the building is and whether any part of it can be saved in the designs of a new building, the idea that the city would yet again allow a building to come down and be turned into surface parking is simply unacceptable for many reasons.

The City, especially the Department of Planning & Development, has been working hard over the past year to plan first, with the neighborhood planning process, Providence Tomorrow and the revamped Comprehensive Plan. Creating a gigantic hole at the top of Downcity goes against everything we all have been working on. One of the universal truths to come out of the Providence Tomorrow Charrettes was overwhelming support of reducing the number of surface parking lots across the city. Why would the city allow yet another one to be built, if even for a week? Parking lots do not add anything to the urban fabric of the city; in fact they tear the fabric, making it dangerous for pedestrians, encourage heat island effect and pollution (both air and water), create blank and useless spaces, and are ugly. People do not come to Providence to live, work and play because of the plethora of parking lots; they come to see architecture and eat at renowned restaurants and participate in the urban life with WaterFire, P-Bruins, and more.

Greater City Providence is certainly not opposed to a fabulous, urban, important, useful building at this site if indeed it is determined that there’s no way any part of the old Public Safety Complex can be salvaged, however at no time will we concede to supporting yet another parking lot.

Greater City Providence promotes the growth and development of the Greater Providence region in as urban a pattern as possible. Special emphasis is placed on the development of more walkable, affordable, and vibrant neighborhoods that are served by more robust mass transit and fueled by greater economic opportunity. Our primary focus is participating in the zoning and planning process to ensure that the Providence of the future is an urban environment and not a city plagued by inconsistent, uninspired, automobile-centric, and suburban-style development.

For the reasons listed above, we ask you deny this application for a surface parking lot.

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DRC to review Fogarty Building demo – Monday, July 9, 2007

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Rendering of 111 Fountain Street from The Procaccianti Group

Tomorrow (Monday, July 9th), the Downcity Design Review Committee will consider a proposal by The Procaccianti Group (TPG) to demolish the Fogarty Building, located at 111 Fountain Street, Downtown. If the DRC grants the preliminary approval for demolition, the DRC will then review plans for the building proposed to replace it.

TPG describes the new building they plan to build as follows (rendering above):

The 111 Fountain Street site is situated between several historic Fountain Street buildings and the vibrant Sabin Street venues (Hilton Hotel, Dunkin Donuts Center, RI Convention Center, and the Westin Hotel). The new building planned for this site includes a bold architecture that relates to the historic fabric of Downcity Providence, while also acknowledging the adjacent newer construction.

This new building will contain approximately 22,000 square feet of Class “A” retail space at street level in an engaging configuration that connects several existing pedestrian and vehicular destinations. There will be ample parking to accommodate the retail space in the new building, as well as the numerous events from venues throughout the Downcity area.

Greater City Providence is eager to see a new building constructed at the Fogarty Building site. Greater City Providence encourages the DRC to approve the plans to demolish the Fogarty Building, and based on the renderings we have seen for the new building, believe TPG is going in the right direction (finally) with the design for the new building. Design-wise, the DRC should ensure that whatever material screens the parking decks, actually screens the decks. We should not be able to see cars lined up inside that building. The screening being used at the Westin down the street appears to be adequate and a variation of that material should be used.

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