Lifespan razing former Ward Baking building, site to be redeveloped

THE FORMER VICTORY PLATING and Ward Baking Co. administration building at Victory Place in Providence is being razed. / PBN PHOTO/MARY MACDONALD

PROVIDENCE – The last building of the former Ward Baking Co. in the Jewelry District, which survived the installation of two interstate highways, is being torn down.

Preservationists had fought for years to save the diamond-shaped, two-story structure with art-deco design. Owner Lifespan Corp., which acquired the property six years ago, obtained a demolition permit from the city in late January. It is now known as Victory Place, a rebranding of its post-bakery years as home to the Victory Plating Co.

On Thursday, a demolition crew removed debris at the site. About one-third of the building had been razed and it was surrounded by a high security fence.

The site is near the Lifespan-owned Coro Complex, and is a short distance from the I-195 Redevelopment District.

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Lifespan, in a brief statement Thursday, said the building was outdated and posed a safety risk. “Lifespan has begun exploring development opportunities for the Victory Place parcel that could potentially serve as a major economic stimulus for the neighborhood and state alike,” said a company spokeswoman.

Lifespan purchased the 5.3-acre property at Globe and Eddy streets in September 2015 for $7.8 million. At that time, the Ward Baking Co. building was the only structure remaining. The site had been owned prior to that by Richard Gudoian Jr., a principal of JAG Investment Realty. At one time, it was pitched as a potential new ballpark site for the Pawtucket Red Sox. The team has since moved to Worcester, Mass., and become the Worcester Red Sox.

Built between 1901 and 1908 as an administration building for the Ward Baking Co., the building was part of an industrial bakery that was active through the 1970s. The bakery, later renamed the Continental Baking Co., produced products, including Wonder Bread and Twinkies snack cakes.

The Providence Preservation Society, which has placed the property on its “Most Endangered Properties” list for several years, said the building was worthy of preservation.

According to the preservation society, the city issued the building permit only after the State Building Codes Standard Committee overruled the city in favor of the hospital system. A city zoning official could not immediately be reached on Thursday.

“PPS strongly disagrees with the state’s decision to effectively grant a demolition permit when the city’s building inspector found the structure not to be an imminent public safety threat in August 2020,” the preservation society stated, in an overview of the site. “Five years of the owner’s willful neglect should not be rewarded with a demolition permit.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at MacDonald@PBN.com.

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