Updated March 27 at 6:27pm

Should the Downing Corp. building facade on Weybosset Street in Providence’s Financial District be torn down?


Once an integral part of the proposed One Ten Westminster condominium project in Providence’s Financial District, the former Downing Corp. building facade has been standing encased in a rusting steel cage for years.

It was to be an example of how historic preservation and modern approaches to development could not only coexist but produce something greater than the sum of the old and the new.

Unfortunately, that idea does not look like it ever will be brought to fruition, as the financial crisis has ground development to a halt, especially residential development.

Merchants in the area complain that the facade and its support system not only block the sidewalk, but make the street very difficult to navigate, and thus are hurting their business. They ask that it be torn down so that they can return to a more normal flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

What do you think?


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This is an exception to the ideal to preserve existing buildings. I would like to see it preserved, but if it has to stay braced as it is for an indefinate amount of time, they should take it down and try to replicate it when the site is developed.

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

My husband, who has been there, says this neighborhood looks like Baghdad. The facade is only adding to the blight. It needs to go.

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

Gee, wouldn't it have been easier to answer this question/offer input if a photo had been provided?

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

It always makes sense to blend and preserve but to have an eye saw standing in the middle of the City defeats the purpose of preservation. Besides the existing building that was on the site and adjacent to the Turks head building was torn down without any preservation concerns and in my opinion that was a better looking building. Tear it down, put the sidewalk back to use and move on.

City Advocate

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

It's very telling that all of the comments here are value judgments on the aesthetics of the area and nothing more, including one comment by a "city advocate" who couldn't even spell "eyesore" correctly, and one by someone who has only heard through the grapevine about what's going on.

The demolition of the original buildings was done on the condition that the facade on Weybosset Street be preserved, and also included a tax break for the project. The city and the developer inked an ethical and financial deal, and now they think they can get out of that deal after having destroyed 1/3 of the financial district. This happens too often here (at the hands of our own former elected officials, no less), and it's because predatory developers feel like they can force the city to make concessions. Meanwhile, the general public gets screwed out of tax dollars, and eventually end up subsidizing yet another surface parking lot where there was once a handsome and productive street scene. That's the real problem, but because people tend to be more concerned about the superficial issue of neatness and tidiness than the fact that they're being robbed blind, they will likely get away with it again.

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

The bottom line is not who wins or looses politically but what this structure looks like as it stands here.

I've had a business in the area for 25 years.

It undeniably gives the street a "Baghdad" look. It's an embarrassment.

Please take it down; make it "clean.” Let people walk the sidewalks safely.

It's depressing enough to have a business in a state with the third highest unemployment rate in the country without it looking that way; let it go.

Monday, March 15, 2010 | Report this

I think that most of you know that I think it should be preserved. It was an integral part of a negotiated compromise with the developer when he sought approvals for his failed 30 story tower. It should be his responsibility to maintain it and keep standing, regardless of whether he failed to build his building. Otherwise the public loses and he gains. With proper care and modification to the supporting structure, it could be an interesting architectural/sculpture which could continue to hold the street edge and shield the wonderful Weybosset Streetscape from yet another surface parking lot. If the sidewalk were reopened and the wall was properly lighted it could be an asset.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | Report this

I think we're missing the point-If it looks likee Baghdad, it is not the fault of the building, it it the fault of the condition of the rest of the site. The facade must be shored up, and the site must be cleaned up--planted, landscaped, improved--(and by improved I do not mean paved for parking!) What has happened to this site is akin to vandalism, and we as a community should not reward vandalism.There is a long history of great cities preserving architectural fragments--or perhaps Rome should remove the Collosseum?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | Report this

This whole debacle is not from a lack of capital, but a lack of vision on the part of developers and from the city. While I don't advocate for preservation for preservation's sake, that building was a more pleasant addition to the character of Providence than ANY other built since. And even the "ugly" facade in it's current disrepair, is more beautiful than the joke of disjointed architecture that passes for today's historical replication, ie: Providence Place, Waterplace (apts), and Old Stone Square.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Report this

The developer was obligated to preserve the facade, and failed to do so. The company and city should not be let off-the-hook for their willful negligence.

As others have said: The site should be cleaned up, and the facade should be repaired and shored up. Furthermore, the developer should be penalized (if this hasn't happened already) for misuse of the tax break.

Going forward, perhaps tax breaks shouldn't be granted until after a project is completed. Prior to project start, substantial deposits should be sought for eventualities such as this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | Report this

It should stay and be preserved.

The neighborhood does not look like Baghdad - that is completely inaccurate.

Knocking it down would add to the blight and open up the huge vacant lot behind the facade.

If you live / work in the area then you would not need a photo to make your decision - therefore it sounds as though your voting on something you have never seen in person - hence skewing the results.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Report this

Cities all over the world have managed to save the facades of wonderful, eye appealing buildings while erecting modern buildings behind those facades. We should do the same.

Friday, March 19, 2010 | Report this
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