Omni Group gains approval for Citizens Bank annex building apartments

THE PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve a preliminary plan for the renovation of an annex building connected to the former Citizens Bank building at 870 Westminster St. The Omni Group plans to add a third story to the annex building and construct a total of 33 one-bedroom apartments. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION
THE PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve a preliminary plan for the renovation of an annex building connected to the former Citizens Bank building at 870 Westminster St. The Omni Group plans to add a third story to the annex building and construct a total of 33 one-bedroom apartments. / COURTESY PROVIDENCE CITY PLAN COMMISSION

PROVIDENCE – Developer The Omni Property Group Inc. received preliminary plan approval Tuesday for an apartment project in a century-old Citizens Bank building on Westminister Street that calls for the addition of a third floor on the newer 21,800-square-foot annex. 

The City Plan Commission voted 4-0 to approve the preliminary plan for the owner, Omni 870W LLC, an affiliate of The Omni Group, to move forward with 33 apartments in the annex building connected to the former bank building. The project, which has been in the works for more than a year, now includes a newly proposed 8,333-square-foot third-story addition, providing space for 11 units on top of the 22 apartments originally planned in the annex building.

William DiStefano Jr., Omni CEO and president, said the originally planned project involving the first two stories required a new roof for the annex building, and it simply dawned on him to add a new floor.

“A lightbulb went off,” DiStefano said during his presentation on the project Tuesday. “We could use additional units. We just raise it another level.”

- Advertisement -

The apartments will be one-bedroom units. DiStefano said there’s “an amazing demand” for one-bedroom apartments among young professionals. He also said the company had difficulty renting out multi-room apartments in other recent projects in the city.

“We do things cautiously,” DiStefano said.

While he ultimately voted in favor of the project, Commissioner Christian Potter said he wanted to see multi-bedroom apartments and affordable housing.

“Lower-income communities require facilities that can accommodate multiple families,” Potter said. “We know we have a dire need for family housing and lower-income housing.”

DiStefano also said that affordable housing should be put in apartment projects that receive public financing, such as the Industrial Trust Co. Building residential redevelopment project that was announced on Tuesday by state officials, with the help of a combined $41 million in state and city financing. The Industrial Trust Co. Building at 111 Westminster St., the long-vacant property known to many as the “Superman building,” is being turned into 285 apartments, with 20% of those to be considered affordable housing.

The third-story addition at the former Citizens Bank building would raise the roof from 27-feet, 8 inches to 39 feet and 6 inches, the preliminary plan states. The elevator shaft and stairs will be extended to accommodate the new floor, according to the preliminary plan overview.

Omni 870W LLC already received approvals needed to move forward with a residential project in the 20,250-square-foot main bank building in December last year. The developer is planning a residential development with 19 apartments and 3,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor in the three-story building at the intersection of Cranston and Westminster streets.

Rachel Robinson, director of preservation for the nonprofit Providence Preservation Society, spoke during a public comment period, urging The Omni Group to “retain and maintain” an iron fence in place that currently surrounds the building, and to use materials that match the existing annex building. Robinson said she is “grateful” that the project is preserving the bank building.

The main building, a temple-front Georgian Revival structure constructed in the early 1920s, has been included in recent years on the Most Endangered Properties List published annually by the preservation society due to concerns of prolonged vacancy and neglect. Citizens Bank left the building in 2019.

The two-story annex building that runs along Westminster Street was constructed in 1970, according to an online Providence property assessment database. The limited liability company affiliated with The Omni Group bought the main bank building and the annex building, which are located on a 2.6-acre site, for $1.4 million in April 2020.

DiStefano said he’s keeping the fence in place and was happy to get support for the project.

“I think when it’s done everyone will love it, and it’ll work great,” DiStefano said.

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

No posts to display