Tag Archives | Grove Street School

What Cheer/What Jeer 2011

We’re taking a look back at 2011. What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheer195 Demolition

You guys all know there are like a dozen cities all over the country that are insanely jealous that we tore down our downtown expressway, right?

Putting aside what happens with the 195 Commission (we’ll talk about that in a minute), it is so totally awesome that the highway is gone. Even without any development happening yet, the Jewelry District has been transformed. Suddenly, with the highway gone, people realize the Jewelry District is on the edge of Downcity. And while the sidewalks aren’t exactly jammed, it is certainly noticeable how many people now choose to walk between Downcity and the Jewelry District, who would not before.


Route 195 being torn down at Chestnut Street in the Jewelry District

whatcheerBroadway Bike Lanes / Gano Street Sharrows

Anticipated since at least 2008, bike lanes finally showed up on Broadway in 2011.

We also saw the city’s first sharrows show up on Gano and other streets, helping to connect the East Bay and Blackstone bike paths.

Let’s hope we see more bike infrastructure sprouting up on streets all over town in 2012.

whatcheer35 Weybosset Façade

It is going to mean a parking lot, but a parking lot was in the cards all along, we’ve saved the façade for future use and that is going to greatly blunt the impact of the parking lot.

Thanks to the Providence Preservation Society, the Providence Revolving Fund, and all others involved in saving the façade.

35 weybosset rendered

Image: © Chad Gowey 2010. All rights reserved.

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Report: Grove Street School Demo Permit Issued

Tweet from GoLocalProv’s Dan McGowan:

Sought comment from the city, of course it happens to be Friday after 4pm…

Merry Christmas.


Previous posts about Grove Street School.


UPDATED: Grove Street School ordered to be demolished by the City

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Update 08/30, 7:00pm:

Assistant City Solicitor Michael Tarro told The Associated Press he was terminated Tuesday but would not speculate on the reason. A spokesman for Mayor Angels Taveras said only that Tarro had been “separated” from city employment.


Update 08/27, 4:15pm:

Press Release from the City of Providence:

Grove Street School Building Owners Further Demolish Property after City Officials Revoke Demolition Permit

PROVIDENCE, RI – The owners of the former Grove Street School took down more of the building late this morning, without a demolition permit and despite a direct order not to proceed from the City of Providence Director of Inspections & Standards and the City’s Building Official.

Mayor Angel Taveras expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the property owners for again attempting to raze the historic building without authorization, and said the City will pursue all legal remedies against them including criminal and civil charges.

Late last night Mayor Angel Taveras and Ward 13 City Councilman Bryan Principe toured the partially demolished Grove Street School to discuss the Fire Marshal’s decision to condemn the building and pending actions to demolish the structure in advance of Hurricane Irene.

Early this morning, engineers came to the site and upon consultation were able to propose a strategy for securing the building through the storm. Serious issues remained with the building but officials believed that the structure could be temporarily secured.

Later this morning, a demolition crew hired by the property owner arrived at the 95 Grove Street property. The City of Providence’s Building Official and the Director of Inspections & Standards both informed the crew that the demolition permit had been revoked. Despite this order, the contractor entered the property and proceeded to further demolish the building until Providence police arrived.

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February 3, 2007

Channel 10 video from February 2007.

Four years today, workers contracted by the family of Assembly Member and Assistant City Solicitor, Michael Tarro attempted the illegal demolition of the Grove Street School on Federal Hill. The owners had no demolition permit and a stop work order was in place. But on a cold weekend morning, crews came out to try to tear the building down. Neighbors alerted police and the Mayor and the demollition stopped.

Since then, the building has stood with a gaping wound in its side, while the Tarro family has ignored repeated court orders to secure the building, and repeated offers from others to buy it from them.

February 4, 2007

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Regarding “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf”

The below is a letter to the Editor of the Providence Journal in response to David Brussat’s editorial “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf.” As of this date, the ProJo has not printed the letter.

In David Brussat’s “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf,” 1/13/2011, he portrays a disturbing instance of demolition by neglect of Federal Hill’s historic Grove Street School. The owner of the Grove Street School, Representative Michael Tarro, has been a blatantly irresponsible building owner defying city law all the while as an Assistant City Solicitor of Providence.

The Taveras administration defines, the city solicitor is responsible for “implementing all legal policies and procedures of the city to ensure that municipal services and activities are conducted in accordance with city policy and ordinance” as quoted in the Providence Journal in “Mayor appoints Padwa to city solicitor post,” 1/15/2011.

It is unconscionable that Michael Tarro continues to hold a position of enforcing city laws he himself willfully chooses to disobey, despite losing every battle in court over the past four years. As a former resident of Providence who could see the Grove Street School, a mere city lot away, from my own home, I am appalled that this issue is still not resolved and that the building continues to be open to the harsh elements.

Mayor Taveras, please secure this property to prevent further deterioration of a viable piece of Providence’s history, put a lien on the building for the cost of such a task, and get Michael Tarro off the city payroll.

J. E. Cole


What Cheer/What Jeer 2010

What Cheer/What Jeer was originally supposed to be a monthly, or a quarterly thing, but you know what, it is a lot of work putting a list like this together, so it has become an annual thing. So join us as we take a look back at 2010, What Cheering the good and What Jeering the bad.

whatcheerProvidence River Pedestrian Bridge

Whether you love it or hate it, Providence will soon be getting a new pedestrian bridge over the Providence River. Design firms large and small from around the world entered the competition that led to the winning design. And the competition got people around the city interested in transportation and design.



Last year we declared that 2010 would be “The Year of RIPTA” and not to be too smug about it but, we were kinda right.

In December 2009 RIPTA and the City of Providence released the Metro Transit Study, which drew a lot of attention to its proposal to run a streetcar line through Providence. This year, RIPTA embarked on their Core Connector Study, the first step toward bringing streetcars back to Providence. In June, U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood visited Providence and was very excited about our future plans. RIPTA also took delivery of a new fleet of hybrid buses and trolleys in October. This year also saw RIPTA unveil a 5-year plan for the future of transit in Rhode Island. Finally, RIPTA hired a new CEO, Charles Odimgbe. It is early days yet in Mr. Odimgbe’s tenure, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be What Cheered or What Jeered next year.

Certainly all was not good for RIPTA this year, 2010 saw the continuation of an annual tradition wherein RIPTA’s budget falls short resulting in the agency looking to cut routes and/or increase fares. This year they went with increasing fares yet again. Here’s hoping the incoming Governor and General Assembly can work to address the issues surrounding RIPTA’s budget.

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Photos from the Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

This morning around 50 people rallied for Grove Street School on Federal Hill.

Of course we’ve been reporting on this issue for years, but for the uninitiated the story goes like this: The Tarro family illegally demolished a portion of the school in early 2007 and the city has been fighting in the courts (and winning) to get the owners to shore up the building. Michael Tarro is an Assistant City Solicitor and is currently running to replace Steven Costantino in the General Assembly.

Mr. Tarro did not show up at today’s rally, but 5 of his supporters were there heckling during the speaking program. The Tarro supporters claim that the building is a neighborhood nuisance, attracts rats, is unsafe for children who play in it, and should be torn down. While there is no doubt that the building in it’s current condition has become a nuisance, the remedy for that nuisance is not to complete the demolition.

I would also like to point out that people have a personal responsibility for the safety of their children. If I had ever been injured while trespassing in an abandoned building as a child, I would have been grounded, my parents would not have demanded the building I was trespassing in be torn down. My parents probably would have made me apologize to the owners for being in their building.

The neighbors supporting demolition claimed that a park would be built on the site “for the children.” The Tarro family has always claimed that they need to tear down the building for parking for their funeral home across the street. A park has never been part of the plan, and it is certain that the city, with it’s financial house in disarray as it is, will not be building a park here.

Structural engineer and architect Will Yoder spoke about his assessment of the building and finds that the remaining portions (which is the vast majority of the structure) are structurally sound and that the building could be converted to housing or other uses.

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

Grove Street School Rally

After the rally, those of us with smart phones used them to report the buidling to the city via SeeClickFix.


Rally for Grove Street School (Sept. 11)

Channel 10 video from February 2007.

Grove Street School
Community Rally

Saturday, September 11th – 10:00am
Grove Street School, 95 Grove Street

Come learn the history of this school and how you can help save this endangered historic building. Bring your camera and camera phones to take photos for SeeClickFix.

Sponsored by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Preservation Society.

You may recall, because I keep bringing it up, that Federal Hill resident, Assistant City Solicitor, and candidate to succeed Steven Costantino in the General Assembly, Michael Tarro and his family own this building, and Mr. Tarro has repeatedly ignored all court rullings, right up to the state Supreme Court, ordering that the building be fixed.

Assistant City Solicitor Illegal tore down building Breaks laws in the city he is paid to be an Assistant Solicitor in Ignores court orders to fix said building Wants to be a lawmaker

Grove Street School
Feb. 4, 2007

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010

Grove Street School
Aug. 9, 2010


Wither Grove Street School

Grove Street School in 2003, photo from Art In Ruins

Remember Grove Street School? [] [Art In Ruins]

The historic building that for years neighbors have advocated for reuse, while owners of the building made plans to turn it into overflow parking for funeral home business on Broadway was met with illegal demolition on a cold Saturday in February 2007.

Owned by Michael Tarro, a Federal Hill resident and Assistant Providence City Solicitor, running for Steve Costantino’s seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly, this building continues to deteriorate as every possible requirement for either fixing the building or just securing it, is appealed.

While advocates continue to meet each appeal, time may be running out as Tarro has appealed the last Board of Building Review ruling and yet another hearing to duke this out in court is set for Thursday (Aug. 12) at 1pm.

How this has been able to continue without fines, without a lien, without outrage from the city is curious at best, and disgusting at worse. Regardless of where you fall on the support fault line for this building/property/family, the fact that it was illegally demo-ed makes it an illegal demo. The fact that the building has never been secured for all these years makes it a gross negligence of municipal laws.

Grove Street School today:

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

Grove Street School

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Providence Preservation Society announces top 10 most endangered list for 2010

Grove Street School in 2007

The Providence Preservation Society has announced their list of Top 10 Most Endangered Buildings for 2010:

  • Brownell & Field Co. (1907-08) 119 Harris Avenue
  • Terminal Warehouse Co. (1913) buildings, 338 Allens Avenue
  • Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House (1867), 514 Broadway
  • Rhode Island Hospital Southwest Pavilion (1900), 593 Eddy Street
  • Temple Beth El/Shaare Zedek Synagogue (1910-11), 688 Broad Street
  • The Arcade (1828), 130 Westminster St./65 Weybosset Street
  • Atlantic Mills Towers (1863), 100 Manton Avenue
  • Benjamin Dyer Block, western half (1820), 219 Weybosset Street
  • Cathedral of St. John and diocesan properties (1810), 271 North Main Street
  • Grove Street Elementary School (1901), 95 Grove Street
  • Downtown Providence National Register District (includes George C. Arnold Building, 1923; Providence National Bank building facade, 1940s; Teste Block, 1860)

Tarro: Grove Street School renovations, “not feasible”

Grove Street School
Photo by Jef Nickerson


Notice is hereby given that the Building Board of Review will be in session in the Conference Room of the Board located at 190 Dyer Street, Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 3:00 P.M. at which time the Board will be meeting as an Appellate Board regarding the following matter:

Pursuant to Section 23-27-3-124.3 of the Rhode Island State Building Code, the Board will be considering the following Appeal:

Appeal from the Decision of the Providence Building Official

APPELLANTS: Michael A. Tarro, et. al
PROPERTY OWNERS: Michael A. Tarro, et. al (Owners)
SUBJECT PROPERTY LOCATION: 95 Grove Street [a.k.a. the Grove Street School] further identified as Lot 286 on the Tax Assessor’s Plat 33 (Property).
Through correspondence dated July 20, 2009, the Building Official gave notice to the Owners that the existing structure is considered to be unsafe and set forth measures required to render the structure safe. Appellants filed an appeal with the Board contending that the scope of the work as set forth in the Building Official’s correspondence is not feasible under the circumstances.



Previous GC:PVD coverage of the Grove Street School:
Grove Street School partial demolition Feb. 4, 2007
A short history of the Grove Street School Feb. 6, 2007
Fire at Grove Street School July 17, 2007
Google Street View documents the Parking-lot-ification of Providence Dec. 28, 2007
Ugh, Grove Street School Jan. 17, 2008
For Sale: Slightly damaged school house May 7, 2008
Demolition bonds April 7, 2009
Both sides claiming victory in Grove Street School decision July 3, 2009


Both sides claiming victory in Grove Street School decision


The Providence Journal reports today on a RI Supreme Court decision that has both sides in the Grove Street School saga claiming victory.

The Supreme Court ruling overturns a lower court decision ordering the City to issue a demolition permit for the partially demolished former school house. The demolition order was stayed when the city appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the city should not be ordered to demolish the building, but that it should be declared unsafe. Generally, when a building is declared by the city to be unsafe, the next step has been to demolish it (see The Old Pubic Safety Complex and Old Fruit and Produce Warehouse).

So where exactly does this leave the Grove Street School? The Journal quotes Michael Tarro, an assistant city solicitor and one of the surviving children of Richard Tarro who bought the building from the city in 1993 as saying, “If something could be done to restore it, I would do it. But all the engineering and data I have shows that it would be impossible financially to rehabilitate.” The Tarros wanted to tear down the school to provide parking for their funeral home business across the street. However, during the trial, the City produced expert witnesses who testified just the opposite, and the Court ruled that the building should not be ordered demolished.

The WBNA has taken a lead on trying to find parties interested in redeveloping the building. The Journal quotes Anne Taite, President of the WBNA, “there is a lot of potential for redesign now that it has been partially torn down. It’s an opportunity to merge a new, modern style with the old.”

I like what Anne is saying here, it is what I have seen for the future of the building. As Vicki Veh, interim president of the Providence Preservation Society stated to the Journal, the habit of demolition by neglect has to stop in Providence. The Grove Street School can and should be where we the residents drew a line in the sand and told the City enough. Hold property owners responsible and stop letting our architectural heritage melt away. The school with a clearly modern appendage healing the demolition wound could be a monument to that insistence. It could visually speak to this being the last time we let this happen.


For Sale: Slightly damaged school house

Update on the Grove Street School, after all the heartburn, seems the owners are now willing to sell:

Dear Friends,

This was sent today (May 5, 2008) from Deming Sherman regarding the court issues and purchase of Grove St school. There needs to be a buyer offering a bid with serious intentions soon. This may be a problematic development effort but the rewards are deeply important to Federal Hill as well as the preservation of many other neglected and abused buildings in the city.

Your help, insight, forwarding onto others are all important. But most importantly, we need someone who is willing to take the risk and can work toward success here.

Anne Tait (see below)

May 5, 2008

To all: We had a mediation session this morning with the Supreme Court (retired Chief Justice Weisberger). There is going to be an interim order entered that allows us 30 days to seek a buyer for Grove Street School (and an additional 15 days if someone is seriously interested). The Tarros are prepared to sell the property (no set price, although it is appraised at $225,000, but likely can be purchased for less) since it can’t be demolished at least at this point. So here is an opportunity to get preservation folks to come forward! I can arrange for inspection and will give out structural reports and ther information. We need a creative solution here, because I fear that sooner or later, the building will be demolished if we can’t find a solution.

Deming E. Sherman
Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP

If someone is willing to lend us a quarter million dollars, this would make an excellent global HQ for Greater City Providence. We’ll have everyone ’round for beers, we promise!


Fire at Grove Street School

UPDATE 07/18: Sources state that the City has required the building’s owner, Michael Tarro “secure” the building within 7 days.
UPDATE 07/18: The Providence Journal: Arson unit investigating blaze at old school
UPDATE 07/17: The following photos were forwarded to me by the WBNA




From the Providence Journal:

July 17, 2007
Update: Fire at former Grove St. School under control

PROVIDENCE – A late-morning fire has been brought under control at the two-story brick building that is the former Grove Street School.

City firefighters responded at 11:42 a.m. to 113 Grove St., according to James Taylor, chief of communications for the Fire Department. The fire, which was in the basement and first floor, was under control at 12:32 p.m.

Preliminary indications were the fire may have started in the basement. The building inspector is headed to the location.

The former school has been the subject of debate over whether to tear it down.

The former school was damaged when a demolition contractor began ripping it apart without a building permit on Feb. 3. The demolition was partially complete when residents told police and city officials, and the work was stopped.

In May, a trial pitting the city against the family, which now owns the building and began to tear it down, was postponed, after a defendant in the case died.

– staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with reports from Journal photographer Mary Murphy


A short history of the Grove Street School


Grove Street School, in the middle of Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood, one of many small neighborhood schools was built at the turn of the Century and was in use until sometime in the late 70s, early 80s. The City, in an effort to divest itself of these small schools (in desperate need of repair after years of deferred maintenance) in favor of larger, more centralized schools, offered the Grove Street School for sale to interested parties under the agreement that the properties would be redeveloped within a certain amount of time or the properties would revert back to the city.

This school, (like many others of its ilk–Fruit Hill School, America Street School) sat fallow for years and years, and was never redeveloped. Owned by a Federal Hill family who owns a funeral home (Tarro Brothers) on Broadway, the agreement to redevelop was never fulfilled. The “Reverter Clause” was invoked, however it was ruled that too much time had gone by and the city had lost its chance at getting it back. Meanwhile, Fruit Hill School was demolished to make room for a Hollywood Video in the Manton neighborhood, and America Street School (also on Federal Hill) fell victim to arson (that case was never solved.)

Grove Street school continued to languish and calls to code enforcement did little to encourage the owners to do anything with the school. Neighbors eventually stopped calling and complaining because it was clear that complaints to code enforcement only caused them problems–several neighbors report having visits by Code officials at their own properties (on Ring and Grove Streets) after calling about the school.

Meanwhile, many interested parties came calling on the Tarros, and other members of the community–wanting to buy or redevelop in partnership with the owners, and all were sent away. The revaluation of 2003 put the taxable value of this historic building, and the land it sits on at approximately $144,000.

In 2002, this building was put on the Providence Preservation Society’s 10 Most Endangered Properties, where it has stayed every year since then. The Industrial and Commercial Buildings District ordinance was enacted to protect buildings such as these by designating them their own historic district.

In the past 2 years there have been several attempts to damage the building to make it look like it is falling down and in need of condemnation, and at least two visits by demolition crews and equipment. A meeting with community members yielded interesting results. When asked what the owner intended to do with the property, they were told “Parking for the funeral Home.” When asked how many parking spaces they needed, it was not known. When asked how many parking spaces tearing down the school would yield, the owners suggested 60. When asked if that was enough parking to suit their needs, the answer was no.

Last week, a neighbor reported talking to a contractor working in the building, pulling out radiators and other materials. When asked what was going on, the contractor replied that the building would be coming down on that Wednesday (January 30th, 2007.) The community once again mobilized, calling the Planning Department, the Mayor’s office, The City Council office, the Building Department, and the Providence Police Department and the community was assured that the building would not be coming down. No demolition permits had been pulled, and the Historic District Commission had not approved of the implied demo, but police were to monitor the property for activity and a Stop Work Order was affixed to the door of the building.

The building did not come down on Wednesday, however contractors did arrive on site on Saturday morning and began demolishing the east side of the building. Area residents told the contractors of the lack of permits and the posted Stop Work Order, and yet they continued their destruction. Contractors finally ceased sometime after the police arrived on the scene. The Mayor and the City’s building officials arrived some time after that and a 24-hour police detail was assigned to the property.

On Monday, February 5th, the Rhode Island Superior Court issued an Order Granting The City’s Emergency Motion For Injunctive Relief which states that no further demolition or alteration may be made to the Grove Street School. Additionally, the WBNA has been informed by city officials that they are looking at various actions to protect the building, including a Providence Redevelopment Agency meeting on Thursday, February 8th at 4pm at the Department of Planning and Development, 400 Westminster Street, 4th floor to hear plans for the acquisition of the Grove Street School from the current property owners.

Greater City Providence believes that preserving the historic fabric of our city’s neighborhoods is vital to maintaining their livability. Certainly removing such a valuable structure as the Grove Street School for surface parking is not the direction that Providence should be going in. This building has suffered a massive wound, but it need not be fatal. The building can be saved and put to good use for the community. We urge the city to find a way to ensure that the future of this building is entrusted to someone who understands its importance to the physical fabric of the neighborhood. Furthermore we urge the city to enact new legislation that will strengthen the penalties against property owners who carry out illegal demolitions and the contractors they employ. The penalties are so minor now that a developer can knock down a wing of a building (as has been done here), receive their wrist slap, then continue with their demolition as they’ve now left the structure in an irreparable state. Let this be the end of the Old Providence way of doing business.