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ProJo: 195 Commission agrees to deal on $50-million, 500-bed student housing development

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Image from 195 District Parcel 28 – Google Streetview

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted behind closed doors Monday to sign a purchase and sale agreement with a Texas development firm that specializes in privatized student housing to build a $50-million, six-story housing development that will accommodate 500 renters on the west side of the Providence River.

Kane said the commission authorized him to sign the purchase and sale agreement, which will be a binding document requiring the firm to break ground by August 2015. Brodie said the firm expects to open its doors Sept. 1, 2017, ready for people to move into its rental units.


First, yes, it is going to be great to get something built on the 195 Land, and work is projected to begin next summer. With 20,000 square feet of retail space, this project should be able to provide some badly needed retail services to the Jewelry District neighborhood. And having 500 units of housing dropped from the sky has the potential to really have a positive impact on the neighborhood.

However, as the commenters at ProJo said, this deal literally took place behind closed doors. However, people involved in development and real estate all seemed to know this deal was coming, it was just the general public that may be surprised to hear about this this morning. So, if the people most involved in the process, pretty much know what is going on through industry chatter, where’s the need for the secrecy? I know there is a degree of discretion needed to complete a real estate deal, but the Commission really needs to do something about the perception that these Executive Sessions send to the public.

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ProJo: Symposium offers wish list of ideas to spur development of Route 195 land

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Photo from RIDOT

Jan A. Brodie expects there’ll be a groundbreaking in 2015 on the vacant former highway land in the heart of the capital city, but she unveiled a holiday wish list Friday afternoon for what she thinks would push forward pending development projects.

Brodie, executive director of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, would like no sales tax and no corporate taxes for projects built on the nearly 19 acres available for development after the state’s highway-relocation project. She’d like an “institutionalized, predictable” tax-stabilization agreement for city property taxes that would last at least 15 years, she told about 60 people gathered for the final session of the Providence Preservation Society’s year-long symposium, “Building the New Urban Experience.”

No one on the panel supported Chapel View as a vision for what should be done on the 195 land. Thank goodness.

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Sim City writ large on the Providence Waterfront

cianci-waterfront

Screenshot from YouTube.

Today’s Providence Business News reports on the divergent visions of the Providence Mayoral Candidates for the Providence Waterfront.

As with many issues, Elorza wants to continue the Taveras position on Allens Avenue, which is to reserve the land there, through zoning restrictions, for industrial use only. Supported by the City Council under President Michael Solomon and existing Allens Avenue landowners, that position was a change from Cianci’s late 1990s plans and those of his successor, David N. Cicilline.

Elorza does want to increase exports from the working waterfront, through market studies and trade missions, activities normally handled by state economic-development officials.

Not to be overlooked, the people who currently own the land along the Allens Avenue waterfront support this direction.

Continue Reading →

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News & Notes

Rendering of the Boston Public Market

Project for Public Spaces: Boston’s Public Market To Be a Hub for Local Food

PPS’ public markets team has just returned from Boston and is excited to announce that it has begun creating an implementation plan for the first floor of Parcel 7, a MassDOT-owned building that is slated to house a public market. Both local residents and vendors are energized by the decision to re-purpose Parcel 7 into a marketplace that will promote regional food, support the New England economy and foster social integration.

More on Boston’s new public market, set to open in 2015 at their website.

The American Conservative: What to Do With Waterfronts?

Many city waterfronts used to be seedy industrial spaces: Dickensian areas once characterized by water trade and commerce, marked occasionally by squalor or disrepute. But as cities have changed, grown, and gentrified, our waterfronts are changing too.

Nonetheless: changes, even good changes, have consequences. Waterfront projects—be they in wealthy, well-kept communities or in run-down spaces—need a sense of scale and structure in order to foster beneficial growth.

When I wrote about Alexandria’s waterfront project, New Urbanists Peter Katz and Philip Bess both offered a wealth of ideas and tips for excellent, human-scale waterfront development. There were a lot of things we discussed that I simply didn’t have room for in my story—so here are a few “bonus” comments from the two men. They explained five specific ways to help make a waterfront a good New Urbanist space:

I think the best piece of advise in this list is the building it for locals, not tourists. Tourists like local things, but locals do not always like tourist things.


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UPDATED: Possible project at Parcel 12

parcel-12

Image from Bing Maps

The so-called ‘triangle-parcel’ in Capital Center adjacent to Burnside Park could soon see a new development.

On the October 9th agenda of the Providence Redevelopment Authority is a:

Motion to approve lease with option to purchase Parcel 12 located at 5 Exchange Street, to First Bristol Corporation.

According to the Minutes of the PRA July 10th meeting , the lease would be for the construction of a hotel. First Bristol are the owners of the Hampton Inn & Suites on Weybosset Street.

The last proposed development on Parcel 12 was way back in 2006 when The Carpionato Group also proposed a hotel on the site. Let’s hope this one is a little less ugly.

Update: ProJo reports:

The company envisions a six-story building with 120 suites, with an estimated cost of $18 million to $20 million, Karam said.

First Bristol seems to be leaning toward an extended stay hotel concept.

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City Plan Commission Meeting – August 19, 2014

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, August 19, 2014 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from June 29th meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

adrianhallway

Adrian Hall Way – Image from Google Street View

1. Referral 3381 – Petition to abandon Adrian Hall Way The applicant, Trinity Repertory Company, is requesting to abandon the entirety of Adrian Hall Way including AP 25 Lot 179 – for action (Downtown)

2. Referral 3382 – Petition to abandon a portion of Stanhope Street The applicant intends to abandon the portion of Stanhope Street adjacent to AP 97 Lot 12 to add to the area of the lot – for action (Charles)

Minor Subdivision

3. Case No. 14-027 MI – 345 Harris Ave The applicant is requesting to subdivide a lot at 345 Harris Ave measuring approximately 183,884 SF into two lots measuring 29,585 SF and 154,299 SF respectively – for action (AP 27 Lot 284, Valley)

Public Informational Meeting Major Land Development Project

4. Case No. 14-028MA – 345 Harris Ave (Master Plan Approval) The applicant is seeking master plan approval to develop the subdivided portion of the subject lot as a parking lot that will provide 86 parking spaces. Public comment will be taken – for action (AP 27 Lot 84, Olneyville)

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Better than nothing is not good enough

cvs-washington

New CVS in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood will feature two-levels of apartments and underground parking. – Rendering by Schemata Workshop

I’ve been hearing the same refrain lately when it comes to less than stellar development proposals in Providence, ‘it may not be great, but it is better than what is there now.’ The McDonald’s and Family Value in Olneyville is cited as better than the vacant lot that is there now. The LA Fitness on North Main is seen as better than the vacant building that is there now. And on it goes, there’s a defeatest attitude around here about having nice things.

As CVS starts to expand into Washington State, one Seattle neighborhood saw the company’s proposal and asked if they could build something better. Unlike CVS’s recent store back here at home in Edgewood, the company building the new store, The Velmeir Cos., said, ‘sure, let’s figure it out.’

The original proposal was for a one-story CVS at what the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce describes as a high profile corner is Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood.

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ProJo: Hotel among three projects rejected by Route 195 land commission

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The developer preparing to renovate the old South Street Power Station near Davol Square into nursing schools, university offices and apartments proposed buying a nearby parcel of former Route 195 land for as much as $2.25 million to build a 150-room hotel, potentially a Starwood Hotels property.

But the bid by CV Properties, which has offices in Southport, Conn., and Boston, is among three proposals rejected by the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, which released the proposals to The Providence Journal in response to a request for records.

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PBN: I-195 commission hears two more pitches, ‘moving ahead’ on 2 others

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The Interstate 195 Redevelopment Commission Monday heard presentations from two developers with plans for the east side of the former highway land.

Royal Oaks LLC, a group led by Richard Baccari II, vice president of Providence-based Churchill & Banks, is pitching a project south of Wickenden Street, adjacent to existing Churchill & Banks properties in the Fox Point neighborhood.

After Royal Oaks, Carpionato Group of Johnston was slated to present its plan for the Connection at College Hill, an 850,000-square-foot apartment, retail, hotel and pharmaceutical research complex on nearly 6 acres and multiple parcels stretching across Wickenden.

The Carpionato Group proposal has been discussed before here.

Also see in the PBN article, the two developers who presented to the 195 Commission at the last meeting do not plan to construct any parking for their projects.

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WJAR: New apartments coming soon behind Garden City

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“It’s our belief that there is a movement out away from the big suburban house. People want to live in the heart of something where they can be a part of the community and where they have all the amenities and access to all the great things that are happening at Garden City,” said Jordan Durham of D+P Real Estate.

First, I think it is sad that Garden City can be described as having a ‘behind’. Great urban spaces shouldn’t have a front or back, they should be seemless. It is telling I suppose that Providence Place is also often descibed as having a ‘behind’ or ‘back’.

Second, as I said on Twitter the other day, I might pay a lot of money to ensure that I never had to go to Garden City ever again (I really cannot stand it there), of course I’m sure there are more than a few people who would say the same about Providence, so to each his own I suppose.

All that said, it is encouraging to see people putting real money into apartment living in the suburban sections of our urban core. This won’t be car-free urbanist living to be sure, the article describes the development as featuring underground parking with elevator access, but it will give people the option of dipping their toes into the environment of living closely with neighbors, the option to at least consider walking to Garden City to buy groceries or have dinner… a simulacrum of urban living. It is a start.

For more information on the development visit liveatgardencity.com.

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News & Notes

Snowy evening in Helsinki

Snowy evening in Helsinki, image (cc) Niklas Sjöblom

The Guardian: Helsinki’s ambitious plan to make car ownership pointless in 10 years

The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.


Old Urbanist: Going Driverless, or Not

A heated debate over the significance of Google’s so-called driverless car has been raging over the past several weeks. On one side of the aisle are those hailing it as a “revolutionary” technology that will dramatically alter personal mobility to the point of eliminating private car ownership. On the other side are those who reject the premise that the technology represents a groundbreaking shift, instead characterizing it as merely a “slightly different variation” on current transportation modes that is “so incremental that it epitomizes our national short-sightedness, and failure of imagination, when it comes to improving mobility in America.”

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195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – June 30, 2014

West Side Park Pavilion

Conceptual design of pavilion on West Side park.

featured-195commission A meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Providence, Rhode Island, on MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014, beginning at 5 P.M., for the following purposes

I. Public Session

Call to Order: The Chairperson

  1. Welcome by Chairperson: Chairperson Colin Kane.
  2. Executive Director’s Report – Review of Activities in Past Two Weeks and Proposed Future Activities.
  3. Presentation by CDR Maguire of West Side Park, East Side Park and Pedestrian Bridge Design Plans and Discussion.
  4. Discussion of Latest Interim Use Submissions for District Property and Vote to Select Interim Installations.
  5. Discussion of Pending Liquor License Applications for New Nightclubs Near District Property and Vote Regarding Position of District with Respect to Those Applications.
  6. II. Executive Session

    To consider and act upon such matters as may be considered at a meeting closed to the public pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws, Section 42-46-5(a) (the Open Meetings Law), specifically matters permitted to be so considered under subsection (5) (acquisition and disposition of public property).

  7. Discussion and Review of Proposals to Purchase and Develop District Property.
  8. III. Public Session

  9. Chairman’s Report – Review of Activities in Past Two Weeks and Proposed Future Activities/ Tentative Agenda for July 21, 2014 Meeting.
  10. Vote to Adjourn.

195 Parks

West Side Park Design
East Side Park Design

Find further items related to this meeting and minutes of past meetings on the 195 District website.

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News & Notes

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Bloomberg: Icahn Urges Family Dollar CEO to Seek Sale ‘Immediately’

The retailer has been struggling to compete with rival discounters, drugstores and big-box retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. To combat slumping sales, Family Dollar embarked on a review of its business this year. As part of its turnaround plan, the company is closing about 370 underperforming stores and opening fewer new ones. It’s also lowering prices in a bid to entice shoppers.

‘Consistently Underperformed’

Family Dollar has “consistently underperformed its peers” in same-store sales, total revenue growth, sales per store, sales per square foot, operating margins and capital-structure efficiency, Icahn wrote in the letter, which opened by remarking on the “cordial nature” of the previous night’s discussion.

Meanwhile, in Providence we’re throwing out our zoning regulations to accomodate the “proven business model” of this “consistently underperforming” retailer. Olneyville risks ending up with an empty big box more craptacular than the building that was torn down to make way for it.

Providence Business News: Solomon proposes citywide 15-year tax stabilization plan

“I want to send a loud and clear message to the development community that Providence is open for business,” Solomon said in the news release. “If we don’t bring certainty to this process we are losing a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow our tax base, grow our population and create much needed jobs. I plan to reach out to the developers who have expressed frustration with the process to assure them my plan will remove the politics and uncertainty that has plagued this city for far too long.”

The new system would be based on recommendations issued earlier this year by an economic development task force formed by the city council partly in response to the continued vacancy of the Industrial Trust building.

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Grow Smart RI Power of Place Summit – May 23, 2014

convention-center

Grow Smart RI’s biennial Power of Place Summit takes place this Friday, May 23rd at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Online registration closes at noon tomorrow then the price goes up for telephone or walk-up registrations, so register today!

Details from Grow Smart RI:


Join 500 state, local and federal officials, business and civic leaders, real estate professionals, investors, architects, developers, builders, farmers, and community stakeholders from across Rhode Island and New England for Grow Smart’s 5th biennial Power of Place Summit.

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ProJo: Secretive policies of Route 195 Redevelopment District Commission seen as ‘excessive’

The Route 195 Redevelopment District Commission’s policy not to identify developers who propose buying public land is more secretive than policies of other state agencies.

Without that information, Rhode Islanders will not be able to evaluate decisions by the commission to sell 17 parcels of land freed up for development by the relocation of Route 195.

Other state agencies, including the State Properties Committee and the Department of Environmental Management, withhold bidding details while seeking buyers for state land, to maintain leverage in negotiations. But none reached by The Providence Journal has set policies to keep secret the names of losing bidders once a deal is struck to sell land.

I can see where the Commission is coming from, but this Commission has to remain cognizant of the scrutiny they are under and leaning to the side transparency is in everyone’s best interest I think.

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PBN: ‘Rapid bus’ lines part of new development districts

Providence is encouraging transit-oriented development in two neighborhoods most residents may not associate with transportation or potential growth.

The Trinity Square neighborhood in Upper South Providence and the northern section of North Main Street at the Pawtucket line are singled out for the city’s first two transit-oriented development districts in its ongoing zoning rewrite.

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PBN: Riverfront revival in Pawtucket?

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A central focus of Pawtucket and neighboring Central Falls for more than a decade, riverfront redevelopment slowed during the recession, giving local officials the chance to study, plan and prioritize for the recovery.

Now that the economy appears headed in the right direction, some of those plans are being put into motion[.]

An earlier city effort to redevelop [45 Division Street] focused exclusively on building a hotel there, but the winning bid from Carpionato Group stalled when the market collapsed and the city took back control of the land.

A hotel is no longer required and the city is open to a mixed-use project with apartments above first-floor shops.

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