Paolino Properties LP buys Westminster Square Building for $6.55M

Updated at 4:19 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – Paolino Properties LP announced Wednesday that it purchased The Westminster Square Building downtown for $6.55 million at a public auction.

The property, also known as the Howard Building and located at 10 Dorrance St., across from City Hall, is home to commercial and retail tenants including Allstate Insurance, Meridian Benefits Group, Regus coworking spaces, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney LLP law firm and VP Fitness, according to the Providence-based real estate management and investment firm, headed by managing partner Joseph R. Paolino Jr.

The downtown building, constructed in 1957, formerly housed tenants including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, tech startup Swipely, the Social Security Court and private law firms and financial firms.

Paolino, who was mayor of Providence from 1984 through 1991, and also now hosts a weekend news talk show on WLNE called “In The Arena,” said he was proud to add the building to his company’s portfolio of downtown properties.

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“As mayor of Providence in the early ’80s, I would look out my window at this building and imagine how impactful investment would be to this important location, at the front steps of downtown Providence,” Paolino said. “I’ve always believed in the spirit of a vibrant downtown, which is why over the past seven years I’ve invested over $200 million in the immediate area.”

The 12-story building was in receivership before it was put out for auction. It was last owned by Robert Day LLC.

Paolino said he wants to improve the property so it can help contribute to the revival of the downtown area. Paolino has often said the area has been on the decline in recent history due to a lack of political leadership.

“Over the past several decades, I’ve watched the fabric of downtown Providence, particularly the area around this building where 7-Eleven is located, get torn apart, through a rise in homelessness, crime, and people experiencing mental health issues, unemployment and addiction,” Paolino said. “The city needs to invest in social services to meet the needs of our community, and as a business leader, I want to transform this location to make it more attractive to new tenants.”

Paolino said he wants to work with the Providence Licensing Board and the Providence Police Department to address what he described as blatant drug dealing occurring around the nearby 24-hour 7-Eleven store. 

“It’s become an enabler for a lot of drug dealing there,” he told Providence Business News. “We’ll be looking closely to make sure they are not in violation of their lease. If they want to enable what’s going on there, I have a serious problem with that.” 

Paolino claims drug dealing and homelessness plaguing the downtown have led to lost tenants at The Westminster Square Building, resulting in the Robert Day LLC not being able to generate enough rent to pay for a loan on the building. 

“I think their mortgage was a lot higher than what their income was,” Paolino said. “I think they lost a lot of tenants.” 

Paolino said that’s been a pattern with other office buildings throughout the downtown.  

“I think it’s been a cause for a lot of the office tenants to leave,” Paolino said. “That’s just in plain sight. You see people sleeping on the sidewalks. Who wants to go to their office when they see that? I believe the activities around Kennedy Plaza have deteriorated that building to the place it ended up in receivership. Tenants moved out. That’s something I’ve been very vocal on. We have to upgrade.” 

Paolino said his team needs more time to assess the 200,000-square-foot property at 10 Dorrance St., but he’s considering three options: a life science building, apartments or keeping it as offices. Paolino said he successfully bid for the property during a public auction two months ago. 

“Right now, I want to get my arms around it,” Paolino said. “We’re putting together a team that will be working over there. I want to rent it. There are different ideas. One is to make it into a life science building. That’s something I thought of. I ‘m not sure if it makes sense or not.” 

Paolino said his company now owns about 25 pieces of property, including office buildings, parking lots and apartment houses, throughout downtown Providence. 

(Story updated with additional Paolino comments)

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


  1. There were some beautiful historic downtown buildings, with retail on the sidewalk level, that were razed for parking lots in downtown Providence. Mr. Paolino seems more of a destroyer of the quaint character and vibrancy of our city than a builder who would give CPR to our downtown by getting those undesirable people out and convert Kennedy Plaza into a playground. Well, the Pei Plan converting a vibrant Cathedral Square into a dead zone for over 50 years was something that one goat led many sheep to vote on. Why would the effects of a plan from a destroyer like Mr. Paolino be any different?