Providence City Council overrides mayor’s veto of zoning change for Hope Point Tower

Updated at 9:44 a.m.

THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL on Thursday voted to override Mayor Jorge O. Elorza's veto of a zoning change that would allow a New York developer to build the city's tallest building. Above is a rendering of the Hope Point Tower. / COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION

PROVIDENCE – The Providence City Council voted Thursday night to override Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s veto of the zoning variance needed to surpass height limits to build the controversial Hope Point Tower.

A statement from the City Council listed the 10 council members who voted for the override: Luis A. Aponte, Carmen Castillo, Michael J. Correia, Terrence M. Hassett, John J. Igliozzi, Wilbur W. Jennings Jr., Sabina Matos, Nicholas J. Narducci Jr., Mary Kay Harris and Jo-Ann Ryan.

A two-thirds majority of the 15-member council was needed to override the mayor’s veto.

Councilwoman Harris of Ward 11 cast the deciding vote, granting New York developer Jason Fane’s request for height relief and a zoning change in order to build a 46-story residential tower up to 600 feet tall on downtown Providence’s waterfront in the city’s Jewelry District.

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“This decision was not easy. I prayed about it,” Harris said in a statement. “I talked to whoever would speak to me. I asked folks the right questions and asked them all the same questions I always ask – what are the threats and what are the opportunities for my community? And I have concluded that opportunities far outweigh the threats.”

The mayor quickly issued a statement condemning the override.

“I am saddened that Councilwoman Harris flipped her vote to side with the developer,” Elorza said. “Every responsible expert has indicated that this project is not financially viable and will fail under its own weight. It’s disappointing that our City Council ignored signs and caved to continued political pressure, instead of siding with our residents.”

The council voted in November to approve the zoning variance for the tower, but Elorza vetoed the council’s vote on Nov. 30. The council then held a special meeting Thursday and overturned the mayor’s veto.

“I have seen a lot in my 21 years on the council,” said Hassett, the council’s senior deputy majority leader, “and I believe that Hope Point Tower will turn out to be one of the most important developments in our city’s history.”

The council’s statement said Hassett, in his role as chairman of the council’s Committee on Ordinances, shepherded the matter through public hearings and to the full council for a vote.

Hassett said: “I was there when neighbors said ‘no’ to the Renaissance Hotel. I was there when neighbors said ‘no’ to the Providence Place Mall. I went to bat for both and followed my gut that these projects were good for the city and the state, and they were. Today, I feel the same about this project, and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition.”

Elorza cast the issue much differently.

“As a city,” he said Thursday night, “we will not bend to the wishes of multimillionaires who seek to change the rules for their own benefit; who seek to take advantage of every subsidy and benefit they can grab and yet who fail to consider the interests of the local community.

“Providence is in the middle of a building boom that hasn’t been seen in decades,” he added. “We are a city on the rise and we are excited about the amazing projects we have in the pipeline that will continue to make Providence such a special place.”

Ryan, the council’s majority whip, said the Fane project will add to and promote more redevelopment along the former section of Interstate 195 that used to run through the Jewelry District.

“Today’s vote is not simply an expression of support for a much-needed development project. It is a commitment to create jobs and much-needed tax revenue for our city,” Ryan said. “It is an exciting opportunity to jump-start activity in the I-195 redevelopment zone.”

She added: “I understand that sometimes when it comes to ambitious development projects, it is easier to vote ‘no’ and pretend that attacking developers and maintaining the status quo is somehow a public good.

“But when our schools are struggling,” she continued, “when our city is facing financial challenges, and when we needed to change the narrative in Providence, this vote sends a message to responsible developers that we are serious about taking the bold action that is needed to revitalize our city.”

During public hearings prior to the council’s approval of the zoning variance, residents opposed to the tower said it would only appeal to 10 percent of the population and the city needs more affordable housing rather than luxury housing.

Following Elorza’s veto, the Providence Preservation Society, which has mounted a months-long campaign against the tower as inappropriate development, thanked the mayor.

“The Providence Preservation Society and all of the coalition members that have been speaking out against this short-sighted and destructive zoning change wholeheartedly thank Mayor Elorza for putting the city’s interests above the interest of one developer,” PPS Executive Director Brent Runyon said in a statement.

In a joint message last month, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Rhode Island Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio described the project as a major private investment in the capital city, and said they were disappointed the mayor “has chosen to stand in the way of progress for our capital city.”

“We encourage the City Council to override this veto as soon as possible,” they said Nov. 30.

According to the council’s Thursday statement, the Hope Point Tower project is expected to create more than 1,500 “high-wage” construction jobs over a projected three-year construction period. Once completed, it added, the tower is expected to generate $70 million in property tax revenue over 20 years, among other benefits.

“The Fane Organization appreciates the support expressed by the City Council in this evening’s vote,” said a Fane spokesman Friday. “It represents an opportunity to help move Providence forward with growth and new development.  As we have said before, we remain bullish on Providence and Rhode Island.”

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at

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  1. Great that the council showed leadership and made a decision based on facts and not exaggerated, distorted opinions, views shape by emotions rather than logic. Mayor Elorza continues to show a lack of leadership and expansive thinking, but his ignorance and his non belief in our free enterprise system is shocking. People who take up risk with their capital have right to say what the building design should, they also have the right to assess the financial viability. For the Mayor to make judgment on the financial viability of the project, a man who has no “skin in the game” is just one further example of the man’s ignorance and arrogance.

  2. Pen55 could not agree with you more! What I don’t understand first the mayor rejected because he did not get final say on the design and now that the legal legislative override occurred it is now about financial viability. I saw the the study and it assumes all 420 apartments are rentals vs the 180 that are condos. A condo just sold in downtown for $1.9 million based on this the developer will get all his investment back quickly which allow for the rentals to be competitive.