The Shops at Providence Place LLC (an LLC registered by the Carpionato Group) has proposed a 353 unit residential building with 572 parking spaces at the site of the dearly departed Providence Fruit & Produce Warehouse. This is basically a redux of their proposal from late 2016 dubbed, One Hundred Harris at Providence Place. That prior proposal was larger with 459 residential units and a whopping 776 parking spaces.
This project will be presented to the City Plan Commission on February 12th.
The Planning Department’s Staff Report describes the proposal”
The subject property is zoned M-MU 90, it is currently vacant and composed of three lots. The applicant is requesting preliminary plan approval to construct a multifamily building providing structured parking and leasing offices as part of a residential development that will provide 353 dwelling units and a total of 572 parking spaces. Four hundred and seventy five spaces will be provided in a five story parking garage and 97 will be provided in a surface lot to the west of the building. The applicant is seeking a special use permit pursuant to unified development review to maintain a surface parking lot in the M-MU 90 zone. A waiver from submission of all state approvals at the preliminary plan stage is also being requested.
…oh the parking! Per the Staff Report, this project is only required to provide 367 parking spaces (one per unit and 1 for every 500 SF of commercial space (I think the only commercial space is the leasing office for the property)). The building has 475 spaces in a parking garage, so 108 more than required. It also has two surface lots; a 97 space lot on a seperate parcel west of the highway ramp and 14 spaces at the corner of Kinsley Street and Harris Avenue. So, overall, it has 205 more parking spaces than required by zoning.
Let’s set aside the surface lots for a minute, I’ll get back to those.
The structured parking is frankly over-built as proposed. Residents downtown tend to be around 50% car free, i.e. for every unit of housing in the downtown, 0.5 parking spaces are currently being used. This project is bascially, but not quite downtown, and with the ample parking, will be attractive to those people who want near downtown living, but want to park their car in a garage attached to their apartment.
Fine, let’s say this building will have 75% car ownership rather than the 50% we find downtown. That’s 265 spaces. Let’s be generous and say some of those 75% will be two-car households, so maybe there needs to be 0.80 spaces per unit, that’s 283. At 0.80 spaces per unit, the garage is over-built by 192 spaces.
Back to the surface parking. You might want to sit down… I’m OK with the 97 (well, maybe not all 97) spaces west of the highway ramp… Wait, hear me out.
A few things are happening here. The site plan above states that the parcel the surface lot would sit on is “Future Phase II.” Yes, yes, I know, ‘define future.’ I’d imagine the developers will say it is soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is 10-years out, or more. If we have another recession… even if the developers have the best intentions, it could be a while.
So, I’m good with a surface lot for 10-years, or more? Well, no, but… They should under-build the parking garage, build at 0.5 space per unit, then they have the surface lot as overflow if needed. As the neighborhood develops, better transit (RIDOT is proposing a diverless bus-line through this neighborhood) and more job opportunities arise (the City is focusing on this area as a jobs district) more and more of the residents will decide against having cars.
By the time “Future Phase II” happens, the surface parking shouldn’t be needed and Phase I won’t be saddled with an over-built parking structure.
The City would be in a better position to encourage or tell the developer to go in this direction if instead of parking minimums, we had parking maximums in our zoning rules.
The Staff Report points out that the surface lot neeeds a special use permit, as surface parking as a primary use is not permitted in the M-MU 75 zone. Among the reasons for approval, the report states in response to the provision that; ‘granting the proposed special use permit will not be detrimental or injurious to the general health or welfare of the community’:
The site is currently undeveloped and overgrown with vegetation. Provision of parking as well as residential development would enhance the site compared to what currently exists. Surplus parking space could be used as an amenity for neighboring businesses and residences. Based on the DPD’s analysis, the site will conform to environmental regulations like drainage and provision of landscaping and is not expected to negatively affect the health and welfare of the community. The traffic study submitted by the applicant also demonstrates that there will be no negative effects on the surrounding neighborhood.
I mean, I hate it, but yes, a well maintained and properly landscaped parking lot would be better than what is there now. I’d prefer a building, but that’s probably not happening soon. I’ve seen people talking about this project on social media who want the whole site to be a park. Who is going to go sit in the park along the train tracks next to the highway, who is going to maintain that park? Let’s focus our park attention on the river please.
In appoving a special use permit for this parking lot, the City must ensure that it is maintained as directed in the zoning rules, and revoke the special use if it is not.
To be clear though, I only really approve of this surface lot if they build less structured parking. If they insist on building more structured parking than is required or needed in the main development, then I don’t think they should get to build a surface lot here. If they cannot find a viable alternate use for the parcel to generate revenue, they should sell it off.
However, the 14-space surface lot on the corner of Harris Avenue and Kinsley Street? That is a big fat no from me. They should modify the building to be built to that corner, or landscape it as passive open space.
Not that you can really see from that image above, but you know what the building looks like, it is a big box with different façade treatments and weird things glued onto it in a hopeless attempt to make it not look like a big box.
Oftentimes I bemoan the fact that everything proposed in this city is brick, but in this case, I say bring on the brick. Make a big brick box with big windows. That’s what this neighborhood is (or in most cases, was).
The site plan shows that the building is a long wall along Harris Avenue with two set-backs (presumably to give interior apartments access to exterior walls for windows). Imagine three big warehouse-like brick masses lining the street with The 903 on the other side. What a great streetscape that would be. The developer is required to plant street trees, those will provide any relief needed from the massing.
Something needs to be built here, and something is going to be built here someday. Let’s try to make it something that looks and functions well.