Greater City Providence

Proposed Drive-Thru coffee shop on Hope Street

Image from Google StreetView

On the Zoning Board of Review agenda for August 16th is a proposal to demolish Clarke Flower Shop on Hope Street and replace it with a drive-thru “coffee shop.”

SCHARTNER FLORISTS, LLC, OWNER AND ACREI, INC., APPLICANT: 394-398 Hope Street, also known as Lots 35 and 36 on the Tax Assessor’s Plat 9, located in a Residential R-3 Three-Family Zone; filed an application seeking relief from Sections 303-use codes 56.1 & 57.2, 604.2 and 607.1 pursuant to Section 200 in the proposed demolition of the existing flower shop (6,545 square feet) and the construction of a new building (2,475 square feet) for a new coffee shop with drive-thru. The applicant is requesting a use variance for this proposal within the residential district and seeks dimensional relief from regulations governing signs. The lots in question together contain approximately 19,624 square feet of land area.

A Facebook Group has already been formed to block the plan and they are encouraging people to attend the Zoning meeting on August 16th.

The Zoning meeting is August 16th starting at 5:30pm at Providence City Hall, 25 Dorrance Street, in the Probate Court Room on the 5th floor. This item is second on the agenda so should be heard very close to 5:30.

This Google Map shows how many children are in the area of the proposed drive-thru.

View 398 Hope Street: Near Over 1800 Children in a larger map

Neighborhood concern is that the drive-thru will present a safety hazard to the hundreds of children that are in the area every day.

As you can see from the Application quoted above, the applicant needs several variances in order to build the proposed coffee shop including a use variance due to being in a residential zone, and a sign variance.

Greater City Providence opposes the creation of ANY drive-thrus within the city of Providence. Further we oppose the demolition of the existing 6,545 square foot building which is visually interesting, built to the street, and contributes positively to the streetscape of the neighborhood. We have no doubt, that the proposed 2,475 square foot building (drive-thru or no) will be a far inferior structure to the existing structure.

We encourage the developer (whichever coffee chain it is) to take a look at Seven Stars up the street in Hope Village and the Dunkin Donuts on Gano Street to see how coffee shop can reuse and existing structure at the former, and be built to the street and function without a drive-thru in the latter.

Residents of the area, especially those who have children attending the schools in the area, are encouraged to attend the Zoning meeting to make their opposition known.

Greater City Providence

Promoting the smart urban growth of the Greater Providence region.


  • Lots of points to consider here.

    Surprised to hear that the owner of the flower shop is selling. Seemed to be a successful business, even selling a selection of local produce and baked goods. Sad to see it go.

    Good to see organized opposition formed quickly. Hopefully a good number of the Facebook group live within a 200 foot radius. Would certainly help with standing issues in regards to ZBR.

    This proposal offends my streetscape sensibilities to a high degree. However, you would think that common sense would dictate that a high volume of opposition would voice their displeasure at a drive through being developed on Hope Street, given the highly pedestrian nature of the street, plus the relatively high density of the residences close by. This high opposition would increase the likelihood of a ZBR variance denial. I am speculating here, but I wonder if the drive-through feature is part of a strategy to propose something so out of character development-wise that can be later used as a bargaining chip to be taken off the table that would then arrive at a finished product that is still out of character with that location but not as bad as it was with the drive-thru.

    Anyway, I am against this development as proposed. It’s a high traffic pedestrian location and needs to be developed with a pedestrian streetscape in mind.

  • I am speculating here, but I wonder if the drive-through feature is part of a strategy to propose something so out of character development-wise that can be later used as a bargaining chip to be taken off the table that would then arrive at a finished product that is still out of character with that location but not as bad as it was with the drive-thru.

    I think your speculation may be correct.

  • We immediately came to the same conclusion. We being the FB neighbors. I am definitely within 200 feet–more like 6. All the houses on adjoining lots are built virtually up to the property line.

  • I am curious who ACREI Inc. is. I was not able to find them in the MA or RI corporations database.

    I would be really surprised if the variances were granted for this location, but certainly stranger things have happened. It is an election year, after all.

  • I searched for ACREI Inc online & the only related hits were for Florida-based real estate firms. I spoke to Kevin Jackson on Saturday at a Angel Tavares meet & greet and plans to be at the hearing to oppose the variances.

  • oops–that should be “he” plans to be at the hearing to oppose the variances.

  • Somehow the ACREI is representative of Brewed Awakenings. They are not as large a chain as DD, but still a chain that builds structures more suited to a strip mall. Yes, the drive thru seems like a bargaining chip. This is how Dunkin Donuts got on Gano St — they went for drive thru and then compromised on facade. The sad part is that this is being supported by one of the few family-owned local farms we’ve got left. I expected more from them. Anyone who wants to get in the loop should join the Facebook group. Thanks.

  • Our neighborhood does not want a Drive -Thru coffee Shop on Hope Street, especially across the street from a school. What are people thinking?

  • As in Brewed Awakenings wants to tear down a building and build a new building with a drive-thru and put a Brewed Awakenings in it???

    I’ve been devastated ever since Brewed Awakenings left Waterplace and have wanted them to come back to Providence, but if this is the way they are planning their come back, then they can just stay gone!

  • What’s the neighborhood’s feeling on a coffee place in general? I am going to guess since the property is already zoned commercial, it might not be a stretch (or a variance) to put a coffee place there… I really do not think there’s any way in hell (hopefully) that anyone in zoning would grant a drive through, so i would suggest from 400 miles away that folks not get too wrapped up in that, that everyone consider the other elements of the plan too so as not to get bamboozled in zoning…

    The Gano Street dunkin donuts was a train wreck from the word go, from it being build on toxic land rezoned to avoid an EIS, to all kinds of shady state and city backroom deals. I would like to think that Providence’s environment for such things has gotten a little more transparent.

  • I haven’t heard any particular opposition to a coffee shop per se. Many people think that a coffee shop/ flower store with a few Schartner farm pies thrown in sounds pretty yummy. Their approach to this whole thing does not inspire confidence that they are interested in working with neighbors.

  • kath, the fact that there’s an owner (schartner farms) and an applicant (the brewed awakenings people but they are not in the RI Coporations database as that, so that’s weird) means that Schartner is selling to ACREI. Perhaps the deal will fall through and they won’t sell but if they get what they want, it is pretty clear Schartner is bailing. The variances would go with the sale, so that’s why they do it together.

    And of course remember the old PVD adage–it is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

  • A drive through means, I guess, they want 2 curb cuts, each bigger than the existing one. I am fed up with curb cuts. My last 2 frights as a pedestrian having to jump out of the way of drivers (one on the phone of course) happened while I was on the goddamn sidewalk. Good ol’ North Main. I hope that even a widening of that one existing curb cut is a variance that will be Denied.

  • I live across the street from the greenhouse, and it’s bad enough that all the parents dropping off/picking up their kids at the YMCA day care feel free to block my driveway daily because they don’t want to park a whole block away.

    I’ve always thought that the greenhouse lot would work well as a mixed used building with retail/restaurants on the first floor and apartments or offices above, similar to the Tortilla Flats building.

  • It would be nice to have another node of urbanity as a stepping stone between Hope Village and Thayer Street. Certainly a drive-thru coffee shop does not a node of urbanity make.

  • Their only other location (that I could find) is in Johnston, across from the Burlington Coat Factory. It does not have a drive-thru. So I doubt they really want tone given the fact that they already know how to survive without one.

    The sad fact of the matter is that with so much NIMBism out there nowadays and complaining from people about EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of a project, these developers are wising up and proposing outlandishly offense projects, with full knowledge that when neigborhood resistance forms, they will negotiate down from their outlandish positions.

    Even if neighborhood groups have valid concerns, they will be viewed as anti-job, anti-free enterprise if they try to hold out until the end for what they view as a reasonable proposal. Especially since elected officials and the public will see the developer compromising on this and that, even though the developer’s proposal was probably intentionally exaggerated in the first place.

  • Another concern I have – aren’t we kind of reaching some kind of coffee shop Event Horizon? I mean I guess I can see if you live in that particular area it is something of a pain to walk to Thayer or up to Hope Village, but that seems pretty specific. There is also a short walk to Wayland.

    I guess I would hate to see something else put here that fails.

  • Hello I am David J Levesque and Brewed Awakenings CoffeeHouse is owned by me and my wife we are from RI and live in Narragansett. I am proposing to build the coffeehouse (Brewed Awakenings) on the site of Clark Nursery location. Although I don’t own the property I am entering into a long term lease with the developer for this location. I would invite all to visit our locations and see what all were about. Each store has its own look and feel as will this one, were not a big chain like DD or Tim Horton’s. I can tell you that I am a hand’s on guy and I have a great relationship with each store and community. You will see me in there shaking hands and meeting with friends and neighbors on a daily basis. I was caught off guard about the concerns for the Hope Street Location, I should have visited with the locals when this location was brought to my attention and I became interested. So we have plans to meet with all residents this Thursday night. I will be there to listen, answers as many questions that come up and talk about the concept design and product we have to offer. Please feel free to contact me or come visit me at one of our locations I can be reached on my cell at any time 401-868-8861 or contact my office 401-275-6654 Thanks Dave.

  • Dave – Thank you for responding to this forum. Could you give us your thoughts on the following?

    Did you ever consider reusing or modifying the existing building?

    This part of Hope Street is not congested like Thayer or Wickenden Streets or Atwells Avenue. The property already has a parking lot. Besides the parking lot patrons could and would park on the street, as is the case throughout the city. Did you think about this when you were planning the operation?

    This is not a suburban location. Your store at South County Commons doesn’t have a drive-thru. Why in a dense urban neighborhood are you proposing a suburban style drive-thru?

    Hope Street is a 25 MPH city street. Why are you proposing highway scale signage and why so much of it?

    The proposed building is a modern building with a modern program. The scale of window openings, building massing, and other building features can’t possibly match the sophistication of scale and proportion of the existing late 19th early 20th building stock in the neighborhood. Have you considered alternate options for the proposed building design?

    This Providence location could become the flagship location for your coffee shop brand. The current building design looks like a cookie cutter design that could be dropped into any suburban strip-retail location. Would you consider adaptive building reuse of the existing building similar to restaurants in the Jewelry District?

    This is a tremendous opportunity to expand your Rhode Island brand in the complex urban context of Providence.

    Please share your thoughts with us.

  • David – Thanks for being willing to engage with the people who actually live here. Do you you happen to live near a strip mall or a drive through in Narragansett? I’m guessing you probably have a big house with a big lawn that does not border idling cars, big signs, parking lots or a dumpster. If someone wanted to put a drive through next to your kitchen window, would you appreciate it if they talked it over first? Or would you rather receive a form letter from the Town of Narragansett letting you know where and when your lawyer can show up? I’m sure you are a nice guy in your own way, but nothing about this has been “hands on” or neighborly.

  • Hello Peter
    Your welcome, I will try to answer some of your questions shortly


  • Clarke Flowers Neighbor
    Response: Well I do live in a nice home and a great neighborhood with great neighbors and I mean that. My neighborhood also abuts one of the sewage plants and just behind us is an industrial park which has businesses like Narragansett Rubbish Removal, Auto sales and even a business that has go-carts batting cages etc, which can be heard on every nice day and evening with loud speakers telling the customers the rules of the course. I also have a large number of cars that drive by the main road which brings it’s own noise and concerns along with an enormous amount of tourist traffic as well. Just at the end of the main road around two hundred yards there are two gas stations Tim Horton’s DD and a liquor store that supports many college students and visitors to the area. So I experience many of the issues you mention despite the nice house and neighborhood. I not complaining and as any neighbor I would always like to see things improve and I would be concerned with any new development and try to make sure it helped improve our community. Like anything there is a process I am not the owner of the property only trying to be a long term tenant. Companies like DD and others were looking into the property so a decision was made to get a commitment from the developer and get the proper filings done as soon as possible. So believe me it is hands on and there is no doubt in my mind that if Brewed Awakenings comes to Hope Street I would be betting that you and I would become come very neighborly along with many others.
    Thanks Dave

  • Hello Peter
    Response to your questions:
    I did consider using the building. Any time you can use an existing structure the cost to open can be significantly lower. When I first learned about the location within days I was on site to see the actual structure and grounds. I made a total of 4 visits at various times to study the traffic as well. It was a decided that the existing structure would not be suitable for our operation and a new building would be needed if we wanted to be at this location.
    Looking at the site and taking into consideration our customer base, parking was a major concern and to leave it up to mostly street parking makes this a risky investment as well as a traffic problem. The planed parking spaces give us the ability to handle the traffic and which will be needed to support the business. You may not be aware that I had a Brewed Awakenings in the city and our # 1 issues was parking I have learned a lot since this time and would not want to make the same mistake.
    Your right South County does not have a drive thru yet we tried very hard to work with the developers in the beginning to get one even at one point we were looking to postpone the location until the building across from us was to be built which had plans for a bank drive thru. The time between the Town and the building being built would have added two years to the opening of the store and this would have been a very bad financial decision for the company. Most people are not aware we just opened a second location in Johnston RI on the corner of Atwood Ave and Cherry Hill across from two schools and right next to the local Cherry Hill residents this location has a drive thru. I would encourage any one to take a look and see what a nice job we did in laying out this drive thru. First we need to be competitive and be able to meet the needs of our customers and this can be achieved with much greater success with a drive thru. Second the cost of this project also comes into the picture and the presence of a drive thru will make this a viable project.
    The signage can be changed and it is not the intention to have highway scale signage for this property.
    Yes we have considered making changes to the building and would welcome ideas. I’m not looking to have a location that looks like a sore thumb remember I am the one stuck with the bill at the end of the day so a well designed great looking building is an asset to all of us.
    I do think this could be flagship location and as I mentioned I’m open to ideas, I am not familiar with the restaurants you’re talking about. Please send me the addresses or names and I will make a visit ASAP.
    I agree this is a great opportunity to expand and I believe this can be a very successful location in the Providence area.
    Please keep the questions coming it is a big help in this process. I will be at the meeting on Thursday and look forward to meeting with you and others.
    Our success is only made possible by great customers and I hoping we can work within your neighborhood soon.
    Thanks Dave

  • I would ask you to consider Three Sisters (1074 Hope Street) and Seven Stars (820 Hope Street), two cafes that do quite a successful business with a fraction of the off street parking that your development proposes. They also are in a location that is within walking distance to many residences like yours, so they do not require a large number of parking spaces. I would suggest that you consider the close proximity of these many residences to your proposed coffee shop and the potential for many customers that would be walking rather than driving. I wish that I could support you as a local business trying to locate here. However, your auto-oriented store would detract from the pedestrian-friendly streetscape that this neighborhood of the East Side provides. Part of the reason I live in here is that that I am attracted to the compact and dense development pattern and sense of place that cities like Providence offers. This development acts as the equivalent of bludgeoning this sense of place with a sledgehammer. You claim your customer base has a need for lots of surface parking and a drive-thru. Sorry, but this transit user/pedestrian will take my business elsewhere and oppose this development.

  • Hello David,

    I understand your many concerns with the existing building. And I am sure you are a good businessman in general, but I would like to talk for a minute about my concern.

    GCPVD put it in the post, but what happens if you fail? Have you considered this? I’m not going to lie, I don’t think parking was your problem, it was more that the city never really got around to really integrating your location with the streets, and there is little foot traffic in that area during business hours. And the bigger point, within three blocks walking distance of your downtown location, one could find 3 Dunkin Donuts, 2 Starbucks, and whatever is in the mall. I liked your store (especially the cookies) but it was out of the way for the majority of Providence worker bees. I actually thought it would be fun if you guys tried to come back in one of the Waterplace locations now that there is more foot traffic there (and I assume the leases are getting cheaper) and with the right spot you have access to train station commuters.

    Regardless, in this location, I am concerned about your business plan. Within a 1.5 mile radius of your proposed location (not including downtown), which is nothing if you are trying to attract car traffic, there are 2 HoneyDew Donuts (No. Main St., and Hope St.), 3 Dunkin Donuts (East Ave. in Pawtucket, No. Main St., and Gano St.), and 2 Starbucks (Thayer St., Wayland Square). For smaller places, there is 7 Stars on Hope St., Blue State Coffee on Thayer, and Coffee Edge in Wayland Sq.

    In recent years, Dunkin Donuts themselves have closed two shops in close proximity to your location, and a smaller place, 729 Hope, went out of business.

    Your distinguishing feature from all of the places I mentioned (save the No. Main St. chains) will be the drive-thru. I would suggest that this is the cornerstone of your business plan. I know something of the business and I know how much revenue they can generate. Without presuming too much I would assume your argument for the variance would be that your business will not succeed without the Drive Thru. I would beseech you to consider what an affront the drive thru is to a neighborhood though and step away from the greed.

    However, that is only half of my point. While you are putting some risk into this project, and I appreciate that, at the root of it, if you fail, it is only a lease, and you can leave. But the neighborhood will be stuck with a blight.

  • Oh, and 3 Sisters. Although they also have yummy ice cream. Not sure how much of their business is coffee/bakery driven.

  • Dave,

    I think I understand where you’re coming from as far as thinking and constraints. Here are my thoughts taking into account your limitations to try to expand on this discussion.

    Many reading this post will strongly oppose any mention of a drive-thru, but since according to your analysis your cafe won’t succeed without it, how might a “city” drive-thru be improved? Besides the movement of vehicles, is it possible to create a discrete drive-thru sequence with a sound reducing fence baffle to insulate neighbors from car sounds and/or flank the lane with hedges on either side or with another device to conceal the lineup of cars from the street and reduce headlight glare? It also might even be an interesting experience as seen from inside a car.

    As for illuminating a parking lot, whether the original lot or the new one you’re proposing, perhaps the install lower residential scale pole lights (and maybe more of them) and use dimmer bulbs to soften the appearance and reduce glare and impact of the parking lot on the street and neighborhood.

    The architecture of the flower shop has become a minor landmark within the context of the Hope Street streetscape. It appears to have been built in the pre-war period. The most significant features from the street view are the greenhouse that’s parallel to the street and the masonry storefront portion with the terra-cotta tiles above the awning. These features have become the icon.

    If you need a smaller building and more parking, as per your requirements, one possibility might be to preserve the two feature building volumes along the street and demolish the rear building sections. The added parking could be put behind the building. Another possibility might be to reduce the length of the street side greenhouse, though this would diminish the iconic composition of the two structures. If the southern most masonry portion were demolished, you might even be able to slip in drive-thru in the same loop as on you current site plan.

    I support preserving and reusing the existing building in whole or in part and unlike others don’t agree that it is healthy for the neighborhood or the city to blindly adhere to the crude and clumsy restrictions of 1950s zoning that designated this area exclusively as an R3 zone. The reality is that 75 to 85% of Providence either evolved on its own or was built under the 1920s zoning, which was more humane and pedestrian and transit oriented. To “revert” the site back to the underlying zoning-residential, would be a tragic loss and lost opportunity for the neighborhood. This small island of commercial between Olney and Doyle is the only opportunity to foster a more pedestrian environment in this immediate neighborhood. If commercial uses between Olney and Doyle were eliminated, the result would reinforce the 1950s auto-centric dream. People living in the Olney/Doyle community would be more likely forced into using cars to go to either Thayer Street or Hope and Rochambeau for even a cup coffee and a bite to eat.

    The following restaurants/bars may not be the same kind of venue you’re proposing, but hopefully will give you ideas of a Providence city aesthetic especially with buildings that have been adapted from another use.
    Jewelry District – Olga’s Cup & Saucer, Rick’s Road House, Cav
    Alco – Everyman
    South Water – Bacaro, Hot Club (a bar, older)
    Olneyville – Cuban Revolution at the Plant

    Due to an out-of-town business commitment, I won’t be at the Thursday meeting. Perhaps we can meet before or after the Zoning meeting on Monday.

  • Hello John & Brick

    Every business is different and yes some may be able to survive without parking or a drive thru, this location for a Brewed could not. The cost of the land, new construction along with the build out to be invested into Brewed Awakenings will far exceed a million dollars. Earlier today I visited the East Side and drove thru the areas where some of these other shops you mentioned are located. I’m not building a Honey Dew or cookie cutter DD in a small closet size space. Our Brewed will be impressive and unique, I am willing to make many changes on the design and as I stated earlier I welcome suggestions.

    As with further up the road on Hope St. where Honey Dew is located the area has many additional parking spaces (many) there are also many additional business in these area’s which all can support each other with walking traffic. This is not exactly the same for this area. Sit and watch the traffic as I have and you will see that this is an area were more cars are passing by in both directions.

    One of the nice things about the area is the street parking which all residents and the few local business such as the Day Care and others have the use of this available parking. Just imagine 20 of those street spots gone because the potential parking lot of 20+ was reduced and the 12 car stacking was forced to parking on the street instead. Exactly what some are talking about and concerned about congestion will be even worse with a reduced parking lot or absence of a drive thru. Let’s do a little experiment, cone off 20 spots from 7 am to 4 pm for one week and then tell me you’re happy with losing them just to have a smaller parking lot and no drive thru.

    As for the competition I’m not worried. Competition is good it keeps companies honest, quality up and breads innovation on an on…
    In South County I opened 6+ years ago and we had 4 competitors (2 DD,2 Tim Horton’s,) for the last 4 years there have been 8 (3 DD, 2 Tim Horton’s, Panera, Starbucks and Bagels) that’s 100% increase in competition.
    As for the DD closing on the east side it was not a surprise to me.

    The drive thru is not for greed at all it’s a tool to make the business competitive so we can be profitable which is needed in the real world. I am far from a greedy individual. But I do believe in the bad word Profit and if this is greedy…
    It is not the cornerstone of my business if it was I would reduce the size of the store and save hundreds of thousands of dollars. I pride myself on having a place where locals, business people, students and all others can meet and hang out, just visit my locations and you will see this happening every day.

    With any business the chance of failure is real and yes I have considered this. It is precisely why I am proposing this location with a drive thru to minimize that risk of failure. I will listen and do my best to make this location a beautiful place inside and out. It cannot work without the support of the community it is in my best interest to have a great looking location and I have a lot of flexibility because it is being built just for Brewed Awakenings.

  • Peter
    It is very possible to have a discrete drive thru and this location layout will be perfect for it. We all ready have been planning on a fence along with ever green trees for cover and sound and I like the idea to have it on both sides for additional coverage of the car line up.

    I would prefer dimmer bulbs for a better look; this would be a nice touch. Great Idea.

    We can further discus plans for the design as we move forward and yes I would like to meet with you on Monday.
    Thanks Dave

  • Tortilla Flats could have said that the fire house that they adapted for their business was not compatible, torn it down, and built an auto-oriented establishment. They didn’t, and are successful. The ability to run a business has to be balanced against the communitiy’s desire for a pedestrian-oriented sense of place that this location provides, and I’m sorry, but if your business disregards that, then I will oppose it.

  • David:

    Thank you for coming here and engaging in discussion, it is certainly refreshing. I am sure everyone is looking forward to meeting you at the community meeting tomorrow.

    Let me say, I was a big fan of Brewed Awakenings when it was at Waterplace and was very sad to see it go. I stocked up on pumpkin spice coffee each season and enjoyed many iced chais during the summer.

    Greater City: Providence would welcome a return of Brewed Awakenings to the city. However, this location as proposed, we cannot support.

    You’ve outlined your reasoning for why the proposal you have is as it is, and the reasoning seems to point to the fact that your business simply is not suitable to this location. The building does not work for you. There is not enough parking in your estimation, either on-street or off. There is not enough foot-traffic such as there is in Hope Village or on Thayer Street.

    If this location has so many strikes against it, why choose it? There is no lack of empty storefronts and vacant lots in the city of Providence, surely if you really want to make a flagship location in the city, perhaps you should spend more time making careful consideration of locations and find one that is more perfectly suited to your needs.

    You suggest that not increasing the amount of off-street parking or adding a drive-thru would make the investment “risky.” As a business person you must assume a certain amount of risk, but the neighborhood is really under no obligation to assume the same risk to their quality of life and/or property values. The large parking lot creating run-off, the drive-thru creating noise, the two curb cuts interrupting the sidewalk, the loss of a handsome building, the increased lighting, the idling cars contributing to air pollution… these are all things that the neighborhood will have to suffer to satisfy your business plan.

    The building and site plan you propose is straight out of Route 2 in Warwick. It is utterly incompatible with the Hope Street neighborhood. You point to your second location in Johnston as an example of how a drive-thru can nicely fit in to a residential neighborhood. Here is what that looks like through the magic of the Google Machine:

    View Larger Map

    This neighborhood in Johnston and the Hope Street neighborhood could not be more different. This store is located on a 4 lane arterial in a sparcely settled suburban community. It and all its neighbors have ample off street parking, and sadly for Johnston, the store is set in the middle of a parking lot set back from the street, the design of the parcel fits right in with the other development on Atwood Avenue. Also, there is nearly zero pedestrian activity on Atwood Avenue.

    In Johnston, the drive-thru sits approximately 100 yards from most of the neighboring homes. At the proposed Hope Street location the drive-thru sits more or less on the property line with a number of neighboring homes sitting just feet from the property line on their side.

    There is a risk for sure, as with any business venture, however there are others in Providence who have taken similar risks without the need for excessive off-street parking or drive-thrus.

    Seven Stars on Broadway has a grand total of 2 off-street parking spaces (which most customers seem to not be aware of). Broadway is a business district, but not as compact and well foot traveled as Hope Village. The business survives with passing bike and foot traffic from area residents, street parking, and their 2 off street spaces. The business is also in an existing building.

    Olga’s Cup & Saucer in the Jewelry District has no off-street parking that I know of and is in a neighborhood chiefly occupied by offices. The area also is not terribly well travelled by pedestrians. Through their menu, their quirky retrofitted building, and their lovely garden atmosphere, Olga’s has created a regional reputation, allowing the business to add on to its existing building several years ago.

    We see no reason why a Providence Brewed Awakenings branch could not be in the company of these Providence institutions but it sure won’t be if the proposed plan is followed and the process can guarantee some serious ill-will in the community.

    You said about your stores, “Each store has its own look and feel as will this one, we’re not a big chain like DD or Tim Horton’s.” You may not be a big chaing like Dunkin’ Donuts or Tim Horton’s, but the building and site plan you’ve proposed unfortunately puts you in their company.

  • thank you Jef for your well-written version of much I have been trying to formulate. I too googled up just that map, and drove by and thru the location last night, because I found the claim that the Cherry Hill location and Hope street are similar enough to validate a drivethru option quite disingenuous to say the least.

  • Nice post, Jef.

    I do have a comment about Peter’s post. Peter, you say “people in Doyle/Olney would be forced to get in cars” to get a cup of coffee?

    Look, man. Thayer St. is literally 1/4 mile from Olney St and a little less than 1/2 from Doyle. Doyle is ~3/4 mile from Hope Village. Each are about a mile from Wayland Square.

    The only thing forcing people into cars for those distances are their gigantic lazy asses.

    Let’s not pretend that Providence needs to have services every 1/4 mile to support its population. The problem with the carcentricity of RI is not just in development, it is in attitude. And if a drive-thru goes in at this location, all the same people that can’t be bothered to walk 1/2 mile aren’t necessarily going to abandon their cars even if they only have to walk 500 ft.

  • PS I am in possession of a gigantic ass and I can be lazy, but I have no trouble making the mile walk to 7 stars from my house in Pawtucket.

  • I don’t disagree about the walking distance comments, especially the lazy factor. I always would walk to and from my old office, which was over a half mile away. However, even for people in New York who walk a lot, the typically distance that people prefer walking is ¼ mile or about 5 minutes and up to a ½ mile or 10 minutes usually is fine. However, more than that they will tend to take the train or a bus.

    This topic touches on a point that’s really part of another discussion, which is how can a secure pedestrian culture be encouraged or created in Providence? Partly by always knowing that there’s a reliable transit system that you only have to wait 5 or 10 minutes or less for or knowing that in a pinch you could always hail a cab. These kinds of conditions are rare in Providence. The Clarke’s site repurposed or not and distances between commercial districts and residential areas along Hope Street can’t address how could we change the pedestrian or driving culture.

    Having another restaurant/cafe between Olney and Doyle would simply make it easier for the people who are not necessarily used to being pedestrians that live in the immediate vicinity to have another option that doesn’t require driving.

  • Peter – perfectly reasonable response.

    If something goes in that works well with the neighborhood and succeeds, I am all for it. On the other hand, I would hate to see businesses that have worked a little harder at adaptive re-use and being urban get pushed out because BA gets a drive-thru.

  • I have no opposition to another cafe/coffee shop, and as much as I love 7 Stars, it does cause congestion and dangerous pedestrian conditions ( as do most cities!), but I oppose drive-through, primarily as I think it greatly increases litter ( I never see 7 Stars litter; I see TONS of DD litter- though I appreciate volume is different), and pulling in and out with that kind of frequency is very dangerous- Also, this is a neighborhhod, which many keep forgetting!!! The area is congested especially before/after school- I also find signage ( any commercial signage in that area) offensive and inappropriate- and, while others may argue that this already happens, froma health point of view, I do not want to see a coffee vendor near the HS-
    Kathy Rourke
    37 6th Street ( yes, not in the exact neightborhhod, but I would feel the same way in my neighborhood)

  • Come to think of it, I love 7 Stars, but hate their parking lot. Walking to their door or just walking past on Hope Street is a game of chicken with a fleet of gold plated SUVs. If they expanded their patio into that lot there would be 3- 4 new spaces on the street instead of curb cuts. There is no parking shortage in the area. The congestion everyone complains about results from every driver hoping to grab the spot that someone is about to exit from, right by the door . Most of the time it would be faster to park around the corner and walk from there.

  • How great it could be to have the existing greenhouses as a sheltered hangout spot along the street – with the glass roof and open(able) sides – or remove the glass and just have fabric that could roll over the frame when needed. ?)

    Build or renovate a new kitchen / food preparation area behind or beside the greenhouses (along the street preferred). Think of how Coffee Exchange patrons gather on the deck (or the sidewalk). That’s city livin’ I say.

    Plus, it isn’t a couple thousand square feet of new construction and a $1M investment, but a simpler, more elegant, and probably less financially risky $400k – 600k investment …. and the neighbors will welcome the shop instead of oppose it.

    Hmmm, maybe I should do this myself … ? (only kidding, no way)

  • About 70 people came to the Community Meeting last night with the developer, legal team, traffic guy, Schartner rep and Brewed Awakenings owner. Neighbors were generally upset, passionate and had a lot of great questions. Developers worked to answer them, which is a great step. The developers seem pretty firm in their need for a drive thru to make the project work, but were open to some suggestions about other things. Next up: Monday’s zoning meeting.

  • After last night’s terrific community meeting, the lawyer for the developer has filed for an extension and will not be going before the zoning board on Monday. They requested to be placed on the agenda for the September zoning hearing.

    My sense is that they will want to meet with interested neighbors in the interim to see if a compromise plan might be proposed. It seems clear from last night’s discussion that they are very set on having a drive through, but are willing to discuss many other facets of the design.

    Updates on future meetings will be posted to the Facebook group.!/group.php?gid=147165855300258&ref=ts

    The Y has graciously offered space for meetings we need to have. Letters that you have sent to zoning will wait patiently in the file.

  • I would like to say thank you to all of you who took time to come to the meeting.

    We have made a decision to post pone our zoning meeting until next month so we can address as many of the issues raised that are practical for this project. We are working on these designs and will share them with all the residents as soon as they are completed.

    It is our goal to make this a successful upscale coffeehouse which will help the local economy through tax revenues and create new local jobs (20-25) for the Hope St. area.

    Thanks David

  • Nothing new on this proposal, but Preserve Providence’s Hope Street posted a link to the Planning Department’s Recommendation to Zoning:

    Project Description

    The applicant wishes to be relieved from Sections 303-use codes 56.1 & 57.2, 604.2 and 607.1 pursuant to Section 200 in the proposed demolition of the existing flower shop (6,545 square feet) and the construction of a new building (2,475 square feet) for a new coffee shop with drive through window. The applicant is requesting a use variance for this proposal within the residential district and seeks dimensional relief from regulations governing signs.


    The subject parcel falls within the “Typology F” area that the Hope/Mt. Hope/Blackstone neighborhood plan defines as one characteristic of single, two and three family residential development, usually with a porch or stoop, having an average front yard setback of about five feet.

    The Action Plan section goes on to say that zoning regulations should ensure new development blends with existing neighborhood character. The plan also lists “prohibition” of commercial encroachment onto Hope Street residential areas as an action to maintain and improve neighborhood character.

    Though located in a residential zone, the existing building is used as a low impact florist business that complements the largely residential neighborhood.

    The proposed coffee shop would be vastly different from what currently exists on site. Increase in traffic from a 12 car drive through, sign illumination, the change in building massing in addition to increased vehicle noise and emissions represent a significant impact to neighborhood character and neighboring residences. Besides disrupting motor traffic on Hope Street, the insertion of two curb cuts would disturb pedestrian activity.

    Providence Tomorrow: The Interim Comprehensive Plan designates this area as medium density residential where small scale commercial uses like neighborhood stores are considered desirable if executed properly. The proposed business is of a scale and intensity uncharacteristic of the vision for Mt. Hope expressed by residents in the neighborhood plan.

    Introduction of a drive through business would be contrary to the intention of Objective BE-2 of the Comprehensive Plan that encourages new development to complement traditional character, and Objective BE-7 that encourages preservation of existing urban character. The demolition of an existing building for a larger, more intense use would be in opposition to this objective.

    The requested signage area covers considerably more space than what is allowed in a residential zone. The propagation of signs, drive through menu and their illumination would stand out negatively from the rest of the surroundings.

    Taking into account possible impacts of the development, it is the opinion of the DPD that it is unsuitable for this location and would be a detriment to the residential nature of this portion of Hope Street. However, it is conceivable that a coffee shop could successfully operate inside the existing building without a drive through in a manner that is more consistent with neighborhood character. The DPD would welcome the opportunity to discuss other options with the applicant.


    Based on the foregoing discussion, the DPD recommends that the requested relief be denied.

    Alternatively, should the applicant desire to make modifications to the plan, the DPD would not object to a continuance.

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