Commission ready to pick project for high-profile I-195 district parcel

THE I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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 I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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

PROVIDENCE – The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission is poised on Wednesday to select one of the proposals submitted by three Massachusetts-based firms to build apartments along the Providence River on an undeveloped one-acre site known as Parcel 2.

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission is scheduled to start its public meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, with plans to go into a closed-door executive session to discuss the sale of Parcel 2 to one of three competing developers, including Eden Properties, Urbanica Inc., and Parent + Diamond Real Estate Development, which is working with Urban Spaces LLC. The commission said it will then reopen the meeting in a public session to conduct a vote on the preferred developer for Parcel 2.

Prior to the meeting, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission received letters from each of the developers giving some of their final pleas for consideration, along with comments regarding conditions that will be put in place by the commission governing the development of the site, which is sandwiched between South Water and South Main streets near the pedestrian-only Michael S. Van Leesten Memorial Bridge.

Future development of Parcel 2 has garnered a lot of attention.

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At its last meeting on Jan. 19, neighbors spoke out about their concerns over the height of the six-story building proposals, and some people complained that the project included too much parking.

Michael Samuels, president of Eden Properties, wrote in his letter affirming his commitment to the development of Parcel 2 that, if selected, his company will work through the design process in concert with the commission’s designated design review panel, abutting property owners and community groups. Samuels said his company would continue to study how the elevation and composition of the building would integrate with the surrounding areas, with plans to produce “shadow studies” and renderings from various viewpoints, while also conducting a parking study.

“We look forward to working with you and the Providence community to deliver on our proposal that uniquely delivers housing for the knowledge-based workforce, a continuous pedestrian-scaled public-realm plan, and a feasible business plan with right-sized retail space that will ensure a synergistic retail tenant mix to promote vitality and placemaking,” Samuels wrote.

Kamran Zahedi, president of Urbanica, wrote in his letter that his company wants to “affirm our commitment to working collaboratively with the community.” Zahedi said he is committed to “balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders,” including neighborhood groups.

“We would like nothing more than to create a thriving mixed-use development that will make us all proud,” Zahedi wrote. “Moreover, we have also demonstrated our willingness to respond to questions and concerns of our Parcel 2 proposal and have already begun to generate advancements both to the design as well as a development program in an effort to address these concerns.”

Jeff Hirsch, representing the Parent + Diamond Real Estate Development/Urban Spaces team, also known as Providence Partnership for Community Reinvestment LLC, expressed his company’s willingness to reach a consensus among local stakeholders.

“We and our architects have discussed how to increase the connection from the Fox Point and College Hill neighborhoods to the water, both visually and functionally,” Hirsch wrote. “We are also looking at architectural and visual techniques to reduce the massing of the building yet still maintain the residential density needed for economic viability. As noted, we have given and, if designated, will continue to give a great deal of thought to improving connectivity and scale as they relate to our neighbors.”

According to the commission, Eden’s proposed acquisition price is $500,000; Parent + Diamond/Urban Spaces is offering $3.5 million; and Urbanica seeks to buy the property for $2 million.

THE I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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 I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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

During the Jan. 19 meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, each of the firms presented revisions to the original plans for six-story apartment buildings that were presented last year.

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.

“We believe that our program of homeownership is the most likely approach to introduce a vested population base with an interest in the perpetual enhancement and maintenance of their own and their neighbor’s neighborhoods,” Hirsch wrote in his recent letter to the commission. “Homeownership is the foundation that builds stability within a community.”

One of the biggest revisions to the proposals presented 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.

THE I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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 I-195 REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT COMMISSION is selecting one of three proposals from Massachusetts firms to build apartments on Parcel 2 during its 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

Urbanica made some aesthetic changes in its new plans presented during the January meeting, breaking down the face of its building with “deeper cuts,” according to the project’s architect, meant to create 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 revised Urbanica plans also ditched renderins showing 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, the architect said. Urbanica also raised its entire site by 2 feet above the ground to reduce its subsurface parking construction costs.

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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1 COMMENT

  1. I hope they pick PPCR – they’re the only ones offering condos.
    If you want people to live and stay in an area, give them a stake in the area by buying property.
    Apartments, especially small ones like the ones being advocated by Urbanica will result in high turn-over and little to no investment in the larger community by apartment-dwelling transients.