Greater City Providence

Sale of Westminster St. Building

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According to the Projo Blog the building at 380 Westminster St has been sold to UrbanAmerica LP, of New York.

The Projo article doesn’t mention if the current tenants (the IRS, bankruptcy court, Navy and Army recruiters office) are staying or being forced out. If the building is no longer going to be used for Federal offices, it raises some interesting questions.

So who is this buyer of such a prominent building? A quick Google search for UrbanAmerica LP brought me to their website, and from their site:

UrbanAmerica is a registered investment advisor with a distinctive vision for and specialized expertise in urban center real estate investment nationwide. The firm delivers value-added returns to investors, while also stimulating economic impact in its investment locales.

UrbanAmerica identifies, enhances and captures value by:

  • Maintaining a dynamic proprietary pipeline. Extensive industry, political and non-profit relationships keep UrbanAmerica abreast of high-potential opportunities.
  • Bringing an institutional owner/operator mindset and Class A development capacity to its markets, where traditionally these are lacking.
  • Partnering with national retailers to help execute their urban strategy.
  • Executing replicable growth strategies on behalf of leading institutional investors, including pension funds, banks, and insurance companies.

Further poking around on their website, I see they have a few examples of buildings they have purchased and what modifications they’ve made. Overall, it looks like they have a history of updating the buildings as needed, getting big tenants to occupy at least a portion of the space, and mixing the use to fill the remaining space.

I don’t know anything about the company beyond what they have on their website, but to speculate, if they can use some of their strength on the Westminster St building, that might extend the Westminster Renaissance further towards Empire St.

This particular building is set back from the street a bit, and the frontage is raised a few steps from the sidewalk creating a shadowy corridor. This dissuades pedestrians from walking along side the building, and generally might encourage you to ignore it all together. However, if a significant retail tenant occupied the first floor, added some signage and window displays, and encouraged pedestrians to actually approach the building, I see this as a potential win for Westminster and Providence.

Since this building houses multiple Federal offices, it’s unclear if the buildings appearance is due to necessary security concerns. If the current occupants are going to stay, and the new owners intend on adding retail, is there a way to mix a retail space with secure office space?

What do you think? Can we have first floor retail and secure federal offices above, or is that pushing mixed use too far?

Matthew Coolidge

Matthew Coolidge is co-founder of Greater City Providence. In addition to the occasional blog post about cycling, sailing, or urban rant, he works as an Electrical Engineer, often traveling to major cities and ports around the globe, or simply Warwick.


  • I think the gov’t might have a problem with retail below their offices (easy access for a bomber or something).

    However, something you forgot to mention was the adjacent parking lot designated for that building. I wonder if that’s part of the sale or if that’s owned by someone else.

  • The fact that it’s generally an ugly building that homeless people often sleep in front of is also a big part of the reason why people walking by tend to avoid it. I also wonder what is to become of that parking lot next door. Building something there, even a public garage, would go a long way toward making that end of Westminster feel less like Bald Hill Road.

    In general, I say this is a good real estate developer to have in town.

  • I can’t imagine the feds sharing a building with anyone, with today’s high security concerns. I think they’re more likely to stay.

    As for walking past the building, I can’t speak for anyone else, but in Bush’s America, I’ve become leery of getting too close to federal properties (which I’m sure is how they want it anyway). Also, the recruiters come out front like carnival barkers to try to get people to come it.

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