Betaspring, Founders League to move to renovated downtown space

CONTRACTORS install a window at 91 Clemence St. in downtown Providence, being renovated by Cornish Associates as a new home for Betaspring and the Founders League. / PBN PHOTO/MARY MACDONALD
CONTRACTORS install a window at 91 Clemence St. in downtown Providence, being renovated by Cornish Associates as a new home for Betaspring and the Founders League. / PBN PHOTO/MARY MACDONALD

PROVIDENCE – Betaspring and Founders League will relocate to a newly renovated building downtown, the start of what developer Cornish Associates hopes will become a redevelopment of Grant’s Block.
Betaspring, a startup accelerator, and Founders League, a shared work space for companies and entrepreneurs, will occupy about half of the space in the building at 91 Clemence St., according to Arnold “Buff” Chace Jr., the managing partner of Cornish Associates.
The building fronts an alley, and is located between Weybosset and Westminster streets, adjoining a surface parking lot owned by Cornish that is a part of Grant’s Block.
Redevelopment of the 90-space parking lot is part of a larger plan by Cornish to refurbish a block in downtown Providence. The company has applied for state tax credits, through the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit program, to renovate three historical buildings on Westminster Street, for conversion to apartments and retail, to complete the Clemence building renovation, and to build a new structure for 90 apartments and ground-level retail over the existing parking lot.
The historical buildings include the Lapham Building, at 290 Westminster St., which Cornish acquired in 2014, as well as a building at 276 Westminster St., and one at 270 Westminster St., the former Roger Williams Bank building.
Altogether, the renovated historical buildings would create about 50 apartments.
Cornish Associates has already renovated nine buildings in downtown Providence.
“We’re just going to continue the same equation that we’ve gone through to date. We’ll be putting retail on the first floor, and the upper floors will be housing,” Chace said.
“It’s one of these things of getting to a critical mass. We need more people living downtown.”
The company applied for the tax credits to help finance the conversion of the historical properties, as well as the new construction, although the new building would most likely be done in the final phase, Chace said. The idea would be to place a specialty grocer on the ground level, he said, with the housing above. The plan would place parking underground, below the structure.
Cornish decided to go ahead and complete its renovation of the Clemence Street building because it faced a deadline to get Betaspring and Founders League into the new space.
The companies are expected to complete the move as of Jan. 1, under the terms of a two-year lease. Both are moving from a building at 95 Chestnut St., in the Jewelry District, that will be converted to residential apartments.
Melissa Withers, managing director of Betaspring, and a co-founder of the Founders League, said Cornish Associates listened to what the companies wanted and needed for their space, and created a unique setting. The interior includes open space, as well as individual offices. About 35 people will make the move, she said Friday.
“The space was built out to fit the needs of our community, for the entrepreneurs we service,” she said. “It is a leap forward for us.”
The Clemence Street building most recently was occupied by a bar, and is thought to have originally been built as a warehouse. It has two sections, including one with three levels and another with two floors. It was acquired by Cornish about two years ago.
Cornish gutted the interior and built it out to fit the needs of the tenants. The upper floors will be renovated into four live-work apartments suitable for independent artists or designers, according to Chace.
Originally, Cornish thought about tearing it down, Chace said, understanding that its plans would be to develop the parking lot. But after poking around in the building, it grew on him.
“As happens in real estate sometimes, you fall in love with the decrepit old building,” he said. “When we got in there, it was in horrible shape. We were taking it apart, and we found, underneath the main floor, an old bowling alley.”

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