Marsella Development Corp. to purchase Union Station’s lower floor; build food hall

PROVIDENCE – Marsella Development Corp. had a hand in redeveloping Union Station more than three decades ago. Now, the company is working with the Rhode Island Foundation to add a bigger hospitality element to the former train station.

Marsella Development announced Monday that it is currently negotiating with the foundation on acquiring the lower floor of 1 Union Station, which used to house The Capital Grille and Bar Louie, in downtown.

The tentative agreement between Marsella Development and the Rhode Island Foundation would divide the 49,000-square-foot Union Station building into two condominium spaces. The 16,000-square-foot lower floor, per the agreement, overlooking Waterplace Park would be sold to Marsella Development, which plans to redevelop the space into a food hall that would allow more than a dozen separate restaurant concepts and bars in a single space. The upper two floors, which houses the Rhode Island Foundation’s offices and leased space for The Public’s Radio and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, will remain under the foundation’s ownership.

Marsella Development spokesperson Evan England told Providence Business News Monday that the Marsella family has been weighing options for a food hall in Union Station for a number of years, and negotiations between the company and the foundation have transpired for the past few months.

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A final agreement is expected to be reached “within the next few days,” England said, with a closing expected in a few months. While final details around a purchase price are still being worked out, Marsella Development expects its overall investment in the project to be approximately $13 million, England said.

This agreement also comes on the heels of the city announcing its respective plans to redevelop Kennedy Plaza and Waterplace Park. Even though Marsella Development’s project with Union Station is independent of what the city is planning for, the company plans to work closely with the city as its plans for the surrounding area unfold.

“The Marsella family is deeply committed to supporting downtown Providence and believes a connection through Union Station is critical for Waterplace Park, Kennedy Plaza and the rest of downtown,” England said.

Marsella Development, the company said, led the redevelopment of Union Station after a fire in 1987 gutted the former train station. In a statement, Marsella Development President Chris Marsella said Monday that people will once again come together, as they have before, around food as a way to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are building a space that will bring people together, foster talented members of the culinary community and showcase the very best of Rhode Island,” Marsella said. “The Rhode Island Foundation has shown remarkable support for this vision for Union Station and further improving the quality of life in downtown Providence.”

Rhode Island Foundation CEO and President Neil D. Steinberg said in a statement Monday that the organization is “excited” about Marsella Development’s plans and view this as “another step in [the foundation’s] decades-long commitment to supporting downtown Providence.”

Design and predevelopment phases of the project are currently underway, England said, and construction is expected to start this summer.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.