New Projects Have Been Sailing Through

Thank you David Brussat for setting the record straight on how the opponents of the Fane Tower have been so frequently maligned during this battle. All along the ProJo editorial board has labeled us a “vocal minority of campaign contributors, special interests and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).” They think that “bananas” joke is hilarious and repeat it often. Problem is, they never identify all these other buildings we’ve supposedly been fighting.

On Tuesday, architecture critic Brussat responded to a recent op-ed which had perpetuated this untruth, with a column of his own: “Say no to ugly buildings”.

In just the last couple of years alone, eight major new buildings have been completed in and near downtown, including the Wexford Innovation Center in the I-195 corridor, the River House apartments near the Point Street Bridge, the first of two proposed Edge College Hill residential towers on Canal Street, the low-rise Commons at Providence Station condos along the Moshassuck River in Capital Center, a Homewood Suites Hotel on Exchange Street, a Marriott Residence Inn on Fountain Street, a Woodspring Suites Hotel just outside of downtown on Corliss Street, and a large Rhode Island School of Design dormitory near Prospect Street on College Hill.

All of these large new buildings, and several more now under construction, went through the development process without a whisper of opposition. No proposed new buildings have been blocked in years.

If it seems that this ad hoc group of concerned citizens, architects, preservationists, local residents, city planners, real estate appraisers, and local bloggers has been around a while, that’s because we also opposed the original proposal for a stadium on this riverfront parcel, and for many of the same reasons. But this isn’t us fighting every building every where, this is us trying to get this particular parcel of riverfront land properly developed (while conforming to the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning rules!). We have made it very clear that Fane is welcome to build his tower, just not in this location.

A 12-story building has just been proposed in the Jewelry District with opposition developing over, guess what, a special height request. Providence resident Lewis D. Dana had this to say in “Few oppose building projects when they follow the rules.” (ProJo 10.27.19)

In the Jewelry District, we alleged not-in-my-back-yarders welcomed Wexford, cheered for South Street Landing, admired River House, and watch approvingly as Chestnut Commons nears completion.

But, a 12-story building on a cramped site at 155 Chestnut asks for bonus height? Developer Jason Fane gets spot zoned to break every rule in the book? That’s when we say “Nay!”

David Brussat writes at Architecture Here and There, where he addressed this issue in “Two Fumbles for Providence.” He also has more photos of the new buildings.

(Seen here is the west side of the Providence River with River House and South Street Landing, and if you can’t quite make out the Wexford Building in the distance . . . it’s because it’s conforming!


Below is the new RISD dorm on Waterman Street.

And I love the new Wexford Building on Dyer Street. This company conformed to height restrictions but will end up looking up the backside of the looming Fane Tower (complete with its six story parking garage) instead of towards the river, the pedestrian bridge, and College Hill as they had been expecting.

State “leadership” likes to talk about attracting new development to city. Why would anyone want to invest in a city that keeps changing the zoning and making exceptions. Don’t business people favor predictability?

3 thoughts on “New Projects Have Been Sailing Through”

  1. Lesley Maxwell

    My question would be where are the owners of Wexford on this? They need to speak up and get involved. They designed and built Wexford in a certain way on their parcel to their liking and after following all the rules/regulations. Now, once again, we have Fane. He’s been trying to change the rules to satisfy his ego. He likes the fight. I believe he deliberately set out to destroy our comprehensive and zoning rules. What little he’s done (he misses meetings, deadlines, paperwork consistently) is muddy the waters of the I-195 land. He wants to build something that is far too high, will be too pricey for the average person to live in, had some 5 year-old design the rocket ship (although I call it something else). He plans on a land grab that he didn’t and won’t pay for – a portion of our park that is supposed to be wide open to the sun but will now cast a shadow over it. He’s bitten Wexford, already built and destroyed the look they wanted and paid for. We need Wexford to get involved in the fight. They wield more power, have been through the process to build, aligned themselves when Fane virtually destroyed their plan. There’s power in numbers. It was proven when we didn’t let the Stadium build on prime waterfront land (complete with a lighthouse in a baseball stadium !!)
    Those on the Commission or anybody else who is wimping out to Fane needs to be removed from their position. They do more harm than good. We pay these people to do the right thing and they have failed. The longer that land sits fallow, the less value it’s worth.
    When the land opened up, it was the most expensive piece of property in the U.S. I thought that was impressive. I wonder what it’s worth now. Time’s a’wastin’. Toss Fane to the wolves, recruit people for the Commission who will actually sell the land according to our laws and rules without giving the bum’s rush to the taxpayers. These are multi-million dollar companies yet they get all the tax breaks, credits and stabilizations they want. We end up paying the difference. It’s long past time to listen to the people, to be upfront and transparent. No more back door deals, lies and innuendos. Time for the politicians, movers and shakers to grow a pair. We’re watching. Fail and 2020 is around the corner.

  2. John Gallagher

    Does this simple architecture work well for Providence? Architectural design has regressed. It may be referred as state of the art, but the mindfulness in creating a quaint environment is not there. Mundane is boring. We are leaving monkey see, monkey do architecture for our future generations…and we even knock down ornate structures for the same old square bldg’s with rectangular windows, metal siding. bare cement foundations, plastic siding or corregated siding…ad infinitum. The architects could do better. The developers could build as if they lived here…and the zoning commissioners are like watchdogs who get fed a biscuit…”oh, come on in and do what you want. What was that duty to the public? Oh, I forgot.”

  3. Sharon Steele

    Thank you Beth for reporting the facts!!!
    How refreshing that you have pointed out the obvious…Let’s list all the buildings we’ve supported in the Jewelry District, as well as those under construction & those not yet built but approved… ALL of them have been built, are being built or have been approved since a certain special interest group tried to ram the Stadium down our throats, followed by the “I know the Senate President & his loyal subjects, the Unions” who can get you an extra $25M & an extra 25,000 sq ft from our Public Park…So the Stadium wasted 2 yrs of our lives & now Fane has wasted 3 more years, but who’s counting???
    So here’s what we approved & celebrated..
    Let’s count them together & that’s just in the Jewelry District…1) South St Landing…2) Brown U garage…
    3) Wexford…4) Chestnut Commons…
    5) Parcel 28, 248 units…6) Parcel 6, grocery store & retail & residential…
    7) Garrahy Garage… 8) Aloft Hotel
    What did all these developers do, my friends???THEY FOLLOWED THE RULES!!

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