LANDMARK DECISION? Providence Preservation Society Executive Director Brent Runyon and West Broadway Neighborhood Association Executive Director Kari Lang in front of the Cranston Street Armory. The state recently scrapped plans for $3 million in renovations for the facility.
The yellow brick ramparts of Providence’s Cranston Street Armory won’t protect the landmark from Rhode Island’s annual state budget crunch.
This spring, the 107-year-old building known as the “people’s castle” had been slated for up to $3 million in badly needed renovations before the work was abruptly canceled by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s administration.
State officials said they need to find a long-term use before sinking more money into the West Side icon and decided to commission a study of the best solution instead of making interim repairs.
“I saw a report that says we are close to $10 million in repairs just to secure the building, and even then it doesn’t meet any codes, there are no elevators in the towers and not enough parking,” said Director of Administration Richard Licht. “It is a magnificent hall, but what do you use it for? Before we start spending lots of money, we should know what we are doing with it.”
The state is holding a walk-through for firms looking to complete the Armory study on May 29 and expects to award a contract for the work over the summer. The study is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.
But preservationists and neighborhood activists who have been working to protect the Armory for years argue that putting off needed repairs to the structure is not the best way to find a long-term user.
“Many studies have been done over the years but never implemented,” said West Broadway Neighborhood Association Executive Director Kari Lang, who was on an Armory reuse committee in 1997. “No matter who the user, they will need windows and the repairs that were identified and slated to be made. How many windows could be installed for the cost of yet another study?”
Sen. Paul Jabour, D-Providence, wants to find out if putting off the Armory façade repairs will ultimately result in larger repair bills.