After public input, Providence commission to decide Parcel 2 developer Feb. 2

AFTER HEARING PUBLIC INPUT, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission said it plans to vote on selecting one of three residential building proposals for Parcel 2 during its next public meeting on Feb. 2, 2022. The 1.08-acre site is located next to the Providence River on South Water St. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION
AFTER HEARING PUBLIC INPUT, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission said it plans to vote on selecting one of three residential building proposals for Parcel 2 during its next public meeting on Feb. 2. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION

PROVIDENCE – The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will soon be selecting a developer for Parcel 2, after hearing presentations on Wednesday about revisions to three proposals that were originally pitched to the commission in September last year.

Commission Chairperson Robert Davis said the plan is for the commission to select its preferred developer with a vote during its next public meeting on Feb. 2. The 1.08-acre site is located next to the Providence River on South Water Street across from the Michael S. Van Leesten Memorial Bridge.

Davis said the commission is working with a design review panel that it established, enlisting Craig Barton, an architect and professor at Brown University; Emily Vogler, a landscape architect and professor at Rhode Island School of Design; and Jack Ryan, “a respected Rhode Island architect.”

After hearing presentations from the three developers, including Eden Properties, Urbanica Inc., and Parent + Diamond Real Estate Development together with Urban Spaces LLC, the commission held a 30-minute public input session. Members of the public and a local elected official, Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves, shared their concerns about the proposals, which included too much parking, the planned buildings being too large, and the units not being affordable for low-income renters. One man urged the project developers to employ local union construction workers.

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Goncalves, who recently penned a letter in partnership with several community groups opposing the Parcel 2 development process, said he’s concerned that the six-story building proposals “are still too large” and would end up “obstructing river views” and could undermine quality of life for people from the neighborhood. However, Goncalves said he and other stakeholders would continue to remain engaged in the process to try to make the end product “the best it can be.”

Davis said the commission will continue to work with the design review panel as it navigates the design process, which will allow for additional public input sessions, to help make sure the community is satisfied with the result. Davis said the commission will continue to accept written comment from the community providing input on the three proposals as it selects a developer up through the end of business hours on Feb. 2.

“By proceeding in that fashion, we will get to a design that is appropriate to this site,” Davis said. “There will be continued opportunity for participation by the public.”

One of the biggest revisions to the proposals presented on Wednesday night was in the plan submitted by Eden Properties, which added three two-story townhouses on South Main Street, along with a “pocket park” with benches, a little boardwalk-style path and some landscaping at the corner of South Main and Dollar streets. The Eden Properties revisions also call for a smaller, more glassy connector between two major portions of the building, which like the other proposals has an archway from the South Water Street side of the building to the South Main Street side. 

Urbanica made some aesthetic changes in its plans, breaking down the face of its building with “deeper cuts,” according to the project’s architect Stephen Chung, which he said creates the effect of a “railroad car” that allows people to see through the property more and “alleviate the perception of it as a monolith.” The Urbanica proposal also ditched prior plans for a bold red terracotta surface, now featuring a more toned down pale reddish color. One corner of the building was also pulled back to respect a city easement, making the total square footage of the building 10% smaller, Chung said. Urbanica also raised its entire site by 2 feet above the ground to reduce its subsurface parking construction costs.

The Parent + Diamond/Urban Spaces proposal now features a more pushed back façade on the James Street side, with some other minor changes to the top of the structure, and a trellis added to provide a screen between a patio area and the garage entry. The sides of the building also feature larger indents than before, breaking down the massing into smaller components. Unlike the other proposals, the Parent + Diamond/Urban Spaces plan involves condos that residents will be able to own.

Aside from design, there were financial revisions to the proposals. According to the commission, Eden changed its acquisition price from $200,000 to $500,000; Parent + Diamond/Urban Spaces increased its acquisition price from $1 million to $3.5 million; and Urbanica reduced its acquisition price from $2.7 million to $2 million.

AFTER HEARING PUBLIC INPUT, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission said it plans to vote on selecting one of three residential building proposals for Parcel 2 during its next public meeting on Feb. 2, 2022. The 1.08-acre site is located next to the Providence River on South Water St. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION
THE COMPARISON BREAKDOWN above of the three development proposals for Parcel 2 in Providence shows the difference in area and units involved with each proposal, which range from apartments to condos. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION

Each proposal for the property at the base of College Hill contains the same amount of total apartment units as were originally proposed. Eden Properties’ proposal includes 163 units, the Parent + Diamond/Urban Spaces proposal includes 120 and the Urbanica proposal includes 194.

However, there were some changes in the breakdown of the kinds of apartments, with Eden Properties’ proposal decreasing its amount of market-rate units from 163 to 156, and increasing its affordable units from zero to seven, while keeping unchanged its breakdown of 41 studios, 68 one-bedroom units and 54 two-bedroom units.

Urbanica changed its proposal to include 120 studio apartments, instead of the originally planned 147, while increasing one-bedrooms from five to 40, and decreasing two-bedrooms from 42 to 34, and keeping level its breakdown of 182 market rate and 12 affordable units.

The proposal by Parent + Diamond and Urban Spaces, together known as Providence Partnership for Community Reinvestment LLC, didn’t change its breakdown of units, keeping 108 market rate units, and 12 affordable units, with 26 studios, 25 one-bedrooms, 57 two-bedrooms and 12 three-bedrooms.

AFTER HEARING PUBLIC INPUT, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission said it plans to vote on selecting one of three residential building proposals for Parcel 2 during its next public meeting on Feb. 2, 2022. The 1.08-acre site is located next to the Providence River on South Water St. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION
EACH OF THE THREE proposals for Parcel 2 in Providence, a 1.08-acre site located next to the Providence River on South Water St., underwent changes from the developers during a meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission on Wednesday. / COURTESY I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION

And Eden also decreased its parking from 52 enclosed spaces to 48, while enclosed parking remained unchanged in the other proposals, with Providence Partnership for Community Reinvestment maintaining 140 spaces and Urbanica sticking with 90.

During the public input period of Wednesday’s meeting, community member Kathleen Gannon said that’s far too much parking, and there needs to be accommodations for bicycles.

“We need to discourage driving,” said Gannon, citing environmental concerns associated with motor vehicles.

Christian Roselund agreed with that, stating that “those who would like to see more parking can move to the suburbs.” But unlike Goncalves and others, Roselund said he has no problems with the proposed buildings being six stories tall, and he said the revisions shouldn’t be reducing the amount of residential units in the properties.

Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association, said the developers need to make sure the ground floor retail and commercial units that are part of the plans are pre-leased.

“Not one more square foot of empty commercial space should be dumped into our neighborhoods,” said Steele, urging the commission to prioritize the needs of the community. “What we do here will demonstrate that we have demanded excellence and that we have delivered. … We will insist that whatever happens here must be a win for all of us. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.

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