Did you look at the new zoning map and see a little piece of downtown zoning floating by itself on the back side of Federal Hill? I’m told this piece of downtown zoning in the midst of an otherwise mixed-use manufacturing zone was created by the City Council for a proposed development at 210 West Exchange Street.
The proposed building would top out at 185′, ~17 floors with 198 residential units and a 136 room Aloft Hotel. It would sit up against the highway between West Exchange Street and the former G. Fox building.
A study created for the developer, WestX Capital, describes the project like this:
The proposed 210 WEST EXCHANGE STREET COMPLEX (WSTX) is a 326,860 SF Mixed Use Development including a 136 key Aloft Hotel and 198 residential units. Located at the corner of West Exchange and Fox Place in Providence RI. The project will address urban design aspects such as context scale, nodal location, visual and pedestrian connectivity, all of which respond to the intent of the “Rezoning Providence.”
WSTX proposes a program at this location which activates the pedestrian connection with nearby Downcity, the Convention Center, the Dunkin Donuts Center and the Omni Hotel Complex, only twelve hundred feet away. And it is located at an equal short walk from one of the city’s most vibrant commercial areas along (Atwells Avenue).
This study uses the corner of West Exchange street and Fox Place as the datum level which corresponds with the foot of the hill (approximately + 20.00′) and also facilitates an understanding of the height context along the west side of the highway. There is currently an existing two story industrial building on the site, the visibility of which is eliminated by the ongoing construction of the new exit ramp on 1-95 S. Page 4 of the study includes a photo montage as you might move along the elevated roadway travelling north or south. The new ramp runs even with the 4th and 5th floor of the proposed tower from certain angles resulting in a view of thirteen floors.
Pages 2 and 3 of this study illustrate thenodal condition and the proximity to the city’s down town with the site. This simpatico makes this location and the contiguous area more complementary to the city skyline, not by competing with the taller buildings to the east, but by working in unison to create an extension and visual gate to the city. In this way; a clear visual connectivity is established at the nodal point (where the city in a way vanishes under the the highway) and a reinforced pedestrian connection is activated. Currently the proposed new zoning does little if anything to encourage this activation by continuing to allow the highway to be a wall rather than a construction with a certain level of pedestrian and commercial transparency. Page 2 and 3 also illustrate the relative heights of the existing building relative to the datum. The resulting west side ridge of new development will result in increased commercial activity opening new doorways and increasing the tax base of the Downcity.
It appears that the City Council passed a special ordinance to zone the parcel for this development as D-1-200 (Downtown Zone, 200′ height). Looking at the proposal, and their arguments for not allowing the highway to be an artifcial barrier for Downtown; I like the proposal well enough (there’s things to look at in design review for sure) and agree about Downtown bleeding west. I said in the comments on another post, if not for the highway, we’d all probably consider Atwells to be a downtown neighborhood. We do need to be cognizant of where we want downtown to end and building mass to return to neighborhood scale we see on Atwells and Broadway and Westminster, but I’ve long thought the downtown shouldn’t just end at the highway, which is why always call the strip along the west side of the highway, the Near West Side, it is its own thing seperate from the rest of the West Side.
The one big drawback of this proposal is, it would not be filling in a vacant lot, but rather tearing down an existing building:
This project has not gone before the City Plan Commission yet so can, and likely will, change before that, or it might never get to CPC and just vanish, that happens sometimes we all know, but now we know why that little island of Downtown zoning got stuck on Federal Hill.