The redevelopment of the 26-story, previously empty Bank of America building in Hartford, Conn., into apartments is not a model for redeveloping the Industrial Trust tower in Providence. But it does add to the discussion.
The obvious similarities – a 26-story building emptied out years ago by the nation’s second-largest bank in a New England urban center looking to add residential units – are more superficial than substantive. But the differences run deep.
The 86-year-old, art deco tower at 111 Westminster St. in Providence has a multitiered floor plan, and is in need of substantial interior and exterior upgrades. The estimated construction costs of a residential redevelopment are $82 million (on a total $114 million project). The 47-year-old Hartford tower project is allocating $45 million for constructions costs (on a $78 million total).
In addition, the inclusion of affordable housing among the mix of apartments in Hartford has opened up significant public financing, including a $37.6 million first mortgage from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $17.7 million in debt and equity financing from the state Capital Region Development Authority, and a $3.9 million loan from the state housing department.
The cost of making the jewel of Providence’s skyline livable may not support anything but market-rate housing. But the state’s limited financial resources and the seeming paucity of private capital willing to commit to the project may require a new approach.
The alternative may be the continued deterioration of an iconic building and a lost opportunity to support downtown’s revitalization. •
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