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Brown Daily Herald: Federal, state officials break ground on Dynamo project

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Rendering of student housing building along Point Street

Private sector leaders gathered with federal, state and municipal officials in a ceremony Monday to kick off renovations to the Jewelry District’s South Street Power Station, popularly known as the Dynamo House.

The revamp — expected to be complete by the fall of 2016 — will result in a nursing education center shared by Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, as well as graduate housing and administrative offices for the University.

Officials joked that this would be “the last groundbreaking at this particular site,” said Dick Galvin ’79, president and founder of Commonwealth Ventures Properties, poking fun at failed past projects that attempted to renovate the former power station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to the actual groundbreaking, officials ranging from Galvin to Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’17 P’14 P’17 voiced their excitement about the project to a crowd of more than 200.

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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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UPDATED: WPRI: RI moves ahead on $206M nursing school project

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Board of Education on Monday unanimously signed off on a proposed 15-year lease for the state’s two nursing schools to move into a new joint facility that would be built inside the decaying former South Street Power Station in partnership with Brown University.

The $206-million project, unveiled last year by developer Dick Galvin of CV Properties LLC, would redevelop the former power plant along the Providence River and adjoining property into academic space for the state; office space for Brown; student apartments; and a parking garage.

The parking garage and student housing would be in new buildings built on adjacent parking lots.

May 15, 2014: Press release from the Mayor’s Office

Taveras Administration Proposes South Street Landing Agreements Requiring Tax-Exempt Institutions to Pay Taxes

Development of former power station viewed as significant opportunity to expand city’s tax base, create jobs, spur economic growth in Knowledge District.

The tax-exempt tenants of the proposed South Street Landing development project will pay taxes to the City of Providence under agreements proposed by the administration of Mayor Angel Taveras.

“South Street Landing is a once-in-a-generation economic development opportunity for our Capital City,” said Mayor Taveras. “The project promises to expand Providence’s tax base and increase tax revenues, create construction jobs and permanent jobs, help jumpstart development in the Knowledge District, improve public access and recreation along our waterfront and assure the preservation of an iconic building in our city.”

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PBN: Legal tangle hinders power station redevelopment

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Ownership of the vacant power plant is hampered by multiple stakeholders, mortgages, deed restrictions and up to 20 mechanics liens tied to one of the most ambitious and ill-fated public-private partnerships in the state’s history.

And then there are the $26 million in state historic tax credits attached to Dynamo House that the partnership between Commonwealth Ventures LLC and Brown University intend to use to help finance construction. The current owners of the power station control the tax credits.

With this tangled legal web in mind, the city’s Davol Square Plan lays out a strong case for seizing the power station using the city’s powers of eminent domain if clearing the title through negotiation fails.

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What Cheer / What Jeer 2013

We’re running a little late this year but we’re finally ready to run down the What Cheers and What Jeers of 2013.

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WHAT CHEER: South Street Power Station (Maybe)

In 2013 we got another plan to redevelop the moribund South Street Power Station. While numerous plans for the building, which at one point was known as the Dynamo House, have come and gone, this latest plan engenders optimism as Brown University is involved now.

In January the New York Times and then The Brown Daily Herald reported on rumors of the university becoming involved in the project. Then in June Brown announced it’s plans for the building in a letter to the campus community.

Those plans include a home for the long talked about URI/RIC Nursing School, office space for Brown, and some sort of retail component in the former power station building. Brown also has a developer engaged in building a student apartment building in the neighboring parking lot along Point Street and the City is involved in plans for a parking structure across Point Street from that.

The latest news on the project comes from the ProJo just before Christmas with reports that the PRA is considering condemning the building so the project can move forward.

While this could all be looked at as another in a long line of proposals for the building, Brown’s involvement makes this proposal seem more promising. 2014 will show us if this project actually moves forward.

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City Plan Commission Meeting – December 17, 2013

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from the November 19th meeting – for action
  • Approval of the CPC meeting schedule for the 2014 calendar year – for action
  • Director’s Report

Redevelopment Plan

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Image from Bing Maps

1. City Council Referral: An ordinance to adopt the Davol Square Redevelopment Plan This ordinance would adopt a redevelopment plan that would designate a redevelopment project area consisting of approximately 10.5 acres of industrial and commercial property located along the Providence River in the Downtown neighborhood. The ordinance will be reviewed for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan – for action (Downtown, AP 21 Lots 429, 430, 438, 439, 440)

Re:Zoning Providence

2. Update on Re: Zoning Providence Presentation detailing progress on the zoning ordinance revision process and proposed zoning changes developed by the project consultants – for discussion

Adjournment


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Brown presentation on the South Street Power Station project at JDA meeting – July 9, 2013

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Brown University will present information on the proposed redevelopment of the South Street Power Station at the Jewelry District Association Meeting on Tuesday, July 9th.

The meeting is open to the public, you need to be buzzed into the building for entry.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 • 4:00pm- 5:30pm
Brown Continuing Education Building
200 Dyer Street, Classroom 131/133

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Brown University outlines plans for redevelopment of South Street Power Station

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The University plan includes student housing, retail, a URI/RIC nursing school, administrative offices for the University, a new parking structure, and additions to the riverwalk. The vacant South Street Power Station would be a redeveloped, student housing built on a parking lot along Point Street, and the parking garage across Point Street.

Update: Brown has a Press Release up on their site including a link to an Economic Analysis.

The following letter from Brown University President Christina Paxson, was forwarded to me by a member of the Brown Community:

I am writing to share news that Brown, together with the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Rhode Island College (RIC), is exploring the possibility of partnering with private developer Commonwealth Venture Properties on a comprehensive redevelopment project in Providence’s Jewelry District.

The centerpiece of the project is a renovation of the former South Street Power Station located at 360 Eddy Street, known as “Dynamo House.” Approximately one-half of this space (about 120,000 square feet) would be leased by Brown University for administrative and educational programs; the other half would be leased by the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College to house a shared nursing education program. The proposed project also includes an apartment building suitable for graduate, medical and advanced nursing students; retail space; space for start-ups and other small technology-based companies; and a new parking garage.

This week, a joint resolution was introduced in the General Assembly that, if passed, endorses the project in concept and enables URI and RIC to work over the coming months with the developer on a long-term lease agreement, which would require approval by the State Properties Committee and the General Assembly in the next session. The Brown Corporation has endorsed the concept, directing the administration to enter negotiations with the developer on a long-term lease. Assuming the details of these leases are negotiated successfully, we anticipate that construction and renovation would begin in 2014 and the facility would be ready for occupancy in 2016.

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URI/RIC Nursing School at the South Street Power Station?

Dynamo House

Ted Nesi reports for WPRI about the possibility of the South Street Power Station (aka the Dynamo House) being used as the location for the proposed URI/RIC Nursing School.

Yesterday Brown announced their intention to build their expanded School of Engineering on College Hill, ending speculation that Brown would use the old power station located in the Jewelry District.

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Brown Daily Herald: U. considers purchase of historic Jewelry District site

The vacant historical building known as the Dynamo House, located in the Jewelry District, has become the subject of renewed speculation as government and local university officials push to redevelop the neighborhood into a hub of science, technology and research.

The University has “shown interest in (purchasing the Dynamo House), but nothing definite,” said Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences.

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The New York Times: Historic Power Plant in Providence, R.I., May Get Another Chance at an Encore

The New York Times reports that Brown University may be interested in redeveloping the South Street Power Station, better known as the location of the stalled “Dynamo House” project.

According to James S. Bennett, director of economic development for Providence, “serious” possible tenants have looked at the building in recent months, though he declined to say who they were. Sources knowledgeable about the site said that Brown University might be interested since Dynamo House is in the city’s Jewelry District, where Brown has expanded in recent years.

Mr. Bennett said the city had made finding a new use for the building a priority, and would not consider the alternative: “It’s not going to be torn down,” he said.

See also:
Greater City Providence: What’s going on with the Dynamo House?
Via: Nesi’s Notes
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Providence Preservation Society 2012 Ten Most Endangered Properties

This week the Providence Preservation Society announced their 2012 list of the city’s Ten Most Endangered Properties.

  • George C. Arnold Building (“The Narrow Building”)
  • Jerothmul B. Barnaby House (“Barnaby’s Castle”)
  • Flower Shop and Green House at 398 Hope Street
  • Foreclosed Multifamily Housing Stock
  • Cathedral of St. John
  • Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House
  • Narragansett Electric Lighting (Dynamo House)
  • former Rhode Island Department of Transportation Headquarters and Garage
  • Roger Williams Park Seal House
  • Ward Baking Company Administration Building

Find more information about each building and the Providence Preservation Society website.

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What’s going on with the Dynamo House?

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More than any other, that is the question I get most asked about. Anything happening with the Dynamo House?

I tell people I know it is firmly planted on the Planning Department’s agenda, the Mayor seems to be concerned about it, but the economy blows. Well, Providence Business News had a little more info yesterday.

Harbor East Development Group LLC is looking to take control of the project from the beleaguered Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse. Like Struever, Harbor East is Baltimore based; they were originally an investor in the Dynamo House project.

The $150 million project has been beset by numerous setbacks, with the latest being the financial implosion of Stuever Bros. We’ve written about Struever’s financial woes before.

The power plant was originally donated to the Heritage Harbor Museum by Narragansset Electric in 1999 and the entire building was to be devoted to the museum. As it became clear that Heritage Harbor could not fund a museum of that size, private investors were brought in to work with them. Eventually settling on a plan that included approximately 150,000 square feet of office space and an Aloft brand hotel.

Currently there is various grant money, state bonds, and historic tax credit money sitting in limbo to go towards funding the project. There are also a gaggle of creditors looking for money for work that has already been done, but was not paid for; putting anyone who takes over the project in a tough position.

The other tough position is making up the rest of the financing. Providence’s office vacancy currently sits at around 21% and the credit markets are what one could call, tight.

Having a big tenant lined up could persuade lenders to open the credit spigots. “We have to [find] a 150,000-square-foot user, or you’re not going to build anything,” [Michael Ricketts, Harbor East’s vice president of development] said.

So we currently stand with a new developer in the process of taking over ownership of the property and control of the project. Funds floating around waiting for the project’s future to become clear (though not close to the estimated $150 million needed). A badly bruised Heritage Harbor Museum still looking to make it work. A franchise agreement for an Aloft Hotel on site. And 150,000 square feet of office space needing a tenant.

If anyone knows anyone who is looking for a 150,000 square feet of office space in Providence, have them call Harbor East.

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Where the Ocean State Aquarium Should Be

Ted Nesi over at WPRI just posted some analysis on Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Moffitt’s proposed aquarium. An aquarium in Rhode Island rivaling the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta, in size has been a cornerstone of the Moffitt campaign. Moffitt has even gone so far as to set up a non-profit for the project, and has some rudimentary renderings of a possible building.

Moffitt states, “In its four years in operation, the [Georgia] aquarium has brought in 12 million visitors, pumped $4 billion into the local [Atlanta] economy and spun off 50 new businesses. Moffitt foresees a larger aquarium on Aquidneck Island or, perhaps, in East Providence.”

Nesi in his analysis pokes holes in Moffitt’s claims on the economic impact of the Georgia Aquarium on Atlanta, which are well worth following the link over to read, but his final conclusion is what we’re talking about here:

Long story short, if Moffitt wants his aquarium to have the same impact as Atlanta’s, he’d better plan to locate it in a major regional capital city and surround it with three professional sports teams, a top global news organization and a huge public park. I’m not sure if Aquidneck Island or East Providence fit the bill.

It is likely a safe bet that an aquarium in Rhode Island would have some sort of positive economic impact on the region. Would I base my gubernatorial campaign on the idea? Probably not. And I’m not really seeing how the state at this time could focus on such an endeavour, Moffitt suggests the aquarium would cost $500 million. Certainly the state doesn’t have $500 million lying around.

I’d be all for the state doing what it can to help a non-profit or some other entity raise the funds for an aquarium, so long as it was in a place that would maximize the economic impact. As Ted says, Aquidneck Island or East Providence are not those places. The Dynamo House might be though.

Dynamo House

If we wanted an aquarium rivaling the size of the one in Georgia, we’d need the Dynamo House plus a substantial addition to it. Though we don’t necessarily need one that huge, the New England Aquarium would likely fit nicely inside the Dynamo House shell for instance.

With SBE&R having pulled out of Rhode Island, the Dynamo House’s future is very much in flux. Dynamo is not situated amongst three professional sports teams or the headquarters of a global news organization. It is however next to a proposed waterfront park, on the route of a proposed streetcar line, up the block from the extant Children’s Museum, and in the heart of the next great development frontier in Rhode Island.

Dynamo House

If Mr. Moffitt is serious about his aquarium, this is where I think it should be.

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GC: Photos

There were a few photos hanging around in our Flickr Group before all the snow blogging madness that we wanted to share, so here they are:

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Photo © gunthn

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Photo © gunthn

This next photo is not so good news. That would be a photo of ice collecting in the roofless Dynamo House building.

Historic Preservation - Dynamo Skating Rink
Photo © mangeek

If you’d like your photos featured here, join our Flickr Group and submit them.

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